SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Researchers at the University of Rhode Island are tackling Lyme disease from the perspective of the tick.

“It’s to our benefit to understand this tick. This tick is a public health threat,” Assistant Professor Jannelle Couret told 12 News.

Her team collects ticks and runs experiments to understand how Lyme-causing pathogens affect them.

While humans get sick from the bacteria, research shows the tick could be benefitting from it, according to Couret. She said they’re looking into “what ways and to what extent acquiring this microbe will benefit ticks and change the transmission dynamics of Lyme in the natural environment.”

Couret won a $2.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund her research. URI Professor Thomas Mather, who also studies tick ecology and control strategies, said the information could yield solutions managing populations and the spread of Lyme disease.

“About ticks in general, and their behaviors will help us develop and perhaps even innovate new strategies for protecting people against ticks and the diseases that they can transmit,” Mather said.

Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are responsible for about 95% of tick-borne disease in the country. The ticks pick up the bacteria that causes Lyme disease from white-footed mice.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said reducing exposure to ticks is the best way to avoid contracting Lyme disease.

Between three to 30 days after a tick bite, humans can start to feel chills, headaches, fatigue, fever, and muscle aches amongst a host of symptoms.