Melissa Prusinski

Melissa Prusinski

Ecology of Ticks, Affiliation: Bureau of Communicable Disease Control, Division of Epidemiology, New York State Department of Health
B.S., State University of New York at Albany
(518) 402-5116

Research Interests

The Prusinski Lab primarily studies the ecology and epidemiology of tick-borne diseases, utilizing a combination of field and laboratory-based research methods to explore the dynamics of vector ecology and conduct tick-borne pathogen surveillance.

Ongoing research projects include

  • monitoring of tick populations and the prevalence of associated pathogens as they relate to incidence of tick-borne disease in people
  • exploring the ecology of tick and pathogen geographic range-limits
  • assessing the impact of environmental and climatic variables on tick populations
  • vector and pathogen population genetics studies.

In collaboration with the Ciota Lab and others at Wadsworth Center, we also investigate rare and emerging tick-borne pathogens of public health significance, such as those causing Powassan encephalitis and tick-borne relapsing fever.

The Prusinski Lab also hosts summer Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) students. Potential areas of research for summer REU students include: prospective and retrospective studies to determine the prevalence and distribution of Ehrlichia muris eauclairensis and Borrelia mayonii in host-seeking ticks, which would lead to a better understanding of exposure risk for these emerging pathogens across New York State; examining how environmental factors like leaf litter composition and forest structure impact microclimate and tick establishment, which may help better characterize tick habitat requirements leading to improved predictions of vector distribution, or epidemiological analysis of tick bite data obtained through the NYSDOH Tick Identification Service, which may aid in identification of risk groups and help to target tick-borne disease prevention efforts.

Select Publications
Russell A, Prusinski MA, Sommer J, O'Connor C, White J, Falco R, Kokas J, Vinci V, Gall W, Tober K, Haight J, Oliver J, Meehan L, Sporn L, Brisson D, Backenson PB. Epidemiology and Spatial Emergence of Anaplasmosis, New York, USA, 2010‒2018. Emerg Infect Dis. 2021; 27 (8): 2154-2162. DOI: 10.3201/eid2708.210133
Dupuis AP 2nd, Prusinski MA, O'Connor C, Maffei JG, Ngo KA, Koetzner CA, Santoriello MP, Romano CL, Xu G, Ribbe F, Campbell SR, Rich SM, Backenson PB, Kramer LD, Ciota AT. Heartland Virus Transmission, Suffolk County, New York, USA. Emerg Infect Dis. 2021; 27 (12): 3128-3132. DOI: 10.3201/eid2712.211426
Khatchikian CE, Prusinski MA, Stone M, Backenson PB, Wang I, Foley E, Seifert SN. Levy MZ, and Brisson D. Recent and rapid population growth and range expansion of the Lyme disease tick vector, Ixodes scapularis, in North America. Evolution. 2015; 69 (7): 1678-89. DOI: 10.1111/evo.12690
Prusinski MA, Kogut SJ, Hukey KT, Lee J, Kokas JE, Backenson PB. Prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and Babesia microti in Ixodes scapularis collected from recreational lands in the Hudson Valley Region, New York State. J Med Entomol. 2014; 51 (1): 226-236. DOI: 10.1603/me13101
Prusinski MA, Chen H, Drobnack JM, Kogut SJ, Means RG, Howard JJ, Oliver J, Lukacik G, Backenson PB, White DJ. Habitat structure associated with Borrelia burgdorferi prevalence in small mammals in New York State. J Med Entomol. 2006; 43 (5): 924-935. DOI: 10.1603/0022-2585(2006)43[924:pobbis];2
Full publication listing