COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Air Force Academy cadets are working to create what they call 'Lyme-AID,' which is a patch to detect Lyme Disease early.
The team's research project won gold in an international competition, known as iGEM, this year. They went up against nearly 400 teams.
The team captain said Lyme Disease hits close to home.
"I'm from Connecticut and Lyme Disease is from Lyme, Connecticut, so I have a lot of friends who have dealt with this, even family that I have now has pretty extenuating circumstances with Lyme Disease," Elizabeth Cassidy said.
And she's not the only one with an unfortunate connection.
"One of my middle school teachers actually passed away due to complications from Lyme Disease," co-captain Emma Redmond said.
People get Lyme Disease from ticks, according to the CDC. If left untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.
"You never know really when that one tick bite is going to change your entire life," team faculty member, Victoria Morrison, said.
The CDC estimates nearly half a million Americans get Lyme Disease each year.
"[It's] really heart-breaking, so I hope that this can help people," Cassidy said.
The team's Lyme-AID patch would cover a tick bite and be able to quickly catch the disease-causing bacteria.
"The opportunities I've had with this team to learn about how serious Lyme Disease is, the paths we can take to make it better, is life-changing," Redmond said.
The team worked several days a week on this project for nearly a year.
"There's still a ton more work to be done, but we really came together and pulled in our efforts for a really great cause," Redmond said.
The team will continue their research with hopes of making the first Lyme-AID patch prototype in the next few years.
"[For] my friends and family, I'd love to see them have this in just a first-aid kit when they go hiking and have this easy to use for anybody and very accessible across the country," Cassidy said.