Tick Testing Services

The Tick-Borne Disease Research Laboratory at the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC), in a joint effort with the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will analyze ticks for disease causing organisms in the Borrelia, Ehrlichia, and Rickettsia genera using DNA-based methods.  These services are provided free of charge to all Texas residents submitting directly to DSHS from a Texas address.  Non-Texas residents or individuals with veterinary samples may also submit these for testing on a fee-for-service basis directly to the UNTHSC Tick-Borne Disease Research Laboratory.  Instructions for sample submission are detailed below.

How do I submit my tick sample?

For Texas residents:

Texas residents requesting free testing services must submit their ticks first to the Texas DSHS Zoonosis Control office. DSHS personnel will evaluate the ticks for genus and species identification, stage of development, and state of engorgement.  Once this process has been completed, the DSHS will forward the samples to UNTHSC for DNA testing. There is no charge for testing; however, the DSHS will only accept specimens from Texas residents submitting from a Texas address (Note: ticks collected outside of the state by Texas residents are also acceptable for testing). Submissions received without a valid Texas address will not be tested and will not be returned to the submitter.  Detailed instructions for Texas residents submitting samples and the submission form can be found here: http://www.dshs.texas.gov/idcu/health/zoonosis/tickBites/

For non-Texas residents and veterinary samples:

Non-Texas residents and veterinary laboratories can submit tick samples for testing directly to UNTHSC for a fee.  Payment information is detailed on the submission form link below.  If you have questions concerning the selection of an appropriate test, please contact us for assistance.

PDF Submission Form

Ticks can be shipped live or dead in a secure container like a sealed plastic bag or plastic tube with cap.  To kill a tick, place in a bag or container with a drop of rubbing alcohol.  For Texas residents, samples can be submitting to DSHS to one of the following addresses:

If sending via U.S. Mail:                                              
Department of State Health Services
ATTN:  Zoonosis Control – MC 1956
P.O. Box 149347
Austin, TX 78714-9347

If sending via UPS/FedEx/Etc.
Department of State Health Services
ATTN: Zoonosis Control – MC 1956
1100 W 49th St
Austin, TX 78756

For Non-Texas resident and veterinary samples can be submitting directly to UNTHSC:

Tick-Borne Disease Research Laboratory
UNTHSC
3500 Camp Bowie Boulevard
Fort Worth, TX 76107-2699
817-735-5039

 

How is testing performed?

The Tick-Borne Disease Research Laboratory uses direct detection of the pathogen’s DNA as evidence of infection. In samples where pathogen DNA is detected, sequencing provides identification of the organism at the species level. Standard testing includes amplification and identification of Borrelia spp., Ehrlichia spp. and spotted fever group Rickettsia spp. as a comprehensive screen. Screens for individual pathogens and testing for Bartonella henselae and Babesia microti are also available upon request.

What samples are appropriate?

Ticks attached to humans or collected from their clothing are appropriate samples for DSHS. Both live and dead ticks can be tested. Fee-for-service testing is also available for non-human source (i.e. environmental) samples, veterinary samples, and samples from non-Texas residents. Ticks regardless of engorgement level will be tested, although the presence of large amounts of blood has been shown to reduce PCR efficiency.

When will I get my results?

Results are either faxed or emailed to the submitting individual, health care provider or laboratory within 4 business days of the sample’s receipt at UNTHSC. Texas resident samples submitted through the TX DSHS will have their results reported back to the submitting regional Zoonosis Control Office.

Test results can serve as documentation for a health record. Many tick-borne diseases may not present any initial clinical illness while others may exhibit very similar symptoms. It may be difficult for the health care provider to monitor and confidently evaluate a tick-bite patient or pet. In some cases a tick may be infected with and simultaneously transmit more than one pathogen, further complicating the clinical picture. While tick test results are NOT a diagnosis of illness, they can alert the health care provider of possible exposure to specific pathogens and provide information about potential health risks. This information may also facilitate expedient diagnostic and treatment decisions.

 

Contact Information:

Any questions the general public has regarding the Tick-Borne Disease Research Laboratory or about sample submission requirements can be directed to:

 

Tick-Borne Disease Research Laboratory, UNTHSC
Michael S. Allen, Ph.D., Director
michael.allen@unthsc.edu
(817) 735-5038

Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS)
Bonny Mayes
bonny.mayes@dshs.state.tx.us
(512) 776-2888
DSHS Zoonosis Web Link:  http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/health/zoonosis/tickBites/

 

This page was last modified on December 13, 2017