Health Care

Self-cloning Asian tick causing worry in New Jersey

Epidemics of vector-borne pathogens have risen dramatically in recent years, as we have witnessed the introduction of Zika and West Nile viruses in the U.S., Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever in Southwestern Europe, and the continuous emergence of Lyme disease throughout the Northeast of the U.S. and central Europe. Ticks are the most important vectors for infectious diseases in the Northern Hemisphere and second worldwide, after mosquitoes. Thus, the introduction of an invasive species in a new habitat is worrying.

In Asia and Australia, the longhorned tick is known to transmit diseases to livestock including protozoans Theileria orientalis and Babesia spp., which cause anemia, lethargy and occasionally abortions. In addition, uninfected longhorned ticks can endanger the animal’s health since in large numbers their constant blood-sucking causes anemia, loss of productivity, and occasionally the death of calves.

In addition, H. longicornis has been associated with human pathogens including Anaplasma phagocytophilum, spotted fever Rickettsia, and Borrelia spp. These ticks also carry viruses, including Powassan virus, which has a high fatality rate of up to 10 percent. Of those who survive, 50 percent experience permanent brain injury and SFTS virus (severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome), which causes encephalitis and severe fever with thrombocytopenia, a shortage of blood clotting platelets. Although tick-borne pathogens are generally tick specific, the fact that this tick has been associated with Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Powassan virus, which are present in New Jersey, raises the question of whether they can acquire and transmit these diseases locally.

So far, there are no documented instances of H. longicornis transmitting human pathogens, and there is no evidence so far that they represent a public health risk.

Source : CNBC

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