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Erythema migrans (EM) is an annular, erythematous, expanding rash that is characteristic of early
Lyme disease. In the southern United States, however, many cases of EM seem to have an etiology different from that of
Lyme disease. This little-understood condition is called Southern tick-associated rash illness.
With the goal of obtaining biological specimens and clinical histories from 12 to 20 STARI patients for use in etiologic research, microbiologists from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention contacted the North Carolina Network Consortium, a statewide consortium of practice-based research networks. This article describes the methods by which the North Carolina Network Consortium successfully identified and enrolled Southern tick-associated rash illness patients into a primary care-based research protocol.
A total of 23 patients were enrolled, with 100% attainment of the desired specimens. After an initial lack of success, the revised protocol identified and trained physicians practicing in endemic areas for the illness, used a coordinator with 24-hour availability, recruited participants using newspaper notices and medical providers, and provided regular reminders and progress updates.
A practice-based research network can help basic scientists identify patients and collect specimens for clinically relevant research.