Lyme disease may be headed for Extinction

The tick genome has been mapped by a research team. This may lead to new ways that can eradicate the insect that transmits the dreaded borrelia.

In the legendary Chinese book on military strategy Sun Tzu (the art of war) says one of the advice is that one should know his enemy.

The message seemed to have resonated in an international team of 93 scientists who decided to investigate the tick causing disease down to the smallest detail.

Through a complete sequencing of the genome of the tick, that is, a mapping of the animal’s DNA, they now have all of the insect’s genetic makeup.

The results have been published in the highly respected journal Nature Communications.

“The new knowledge can be used in the fight against the tick and the diseases it brings.  We finally have the opportunity to develop an effective and targeted attack against the tick, “says a professor at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Biology, Cornelis Grimmelikhuijzen, who co-authored the study with associate professor Frank Hauser from the same institution.

The tick is called a vector for zoonoses and is the carrier which transmits diseases from animals to humans.

The most well-known of these diseases is Lyme disease caused by Borrelia bacteria, which may lead to neurological symptoms such as facial paralysis, meningitis, and memory loss if not treated within a month.

Every year diseases transmitted by ticks are 300,000 people in the United States and 65,000 in Europe.

Therefore, it is exactly the tick, researchers have embarked upon. Specifically, they have studied the American tick, which, however, is almost identical to the European according Cornelis Grimmelikhuijzen.

“As we now understand the tick genetics, we can more effectively combat it and either reduce the number of ticks or perhaps completely eradicate the species and thus the diseases it transmits,” explains Cornelis Grimmelikhuijzen, who estimates that the tick might be extinct in 15 years .

Rene Cooper, epidemiologist at the National Veterinary Institute, welcomes the fact that it has succeeded in sequencing the tick genome.

“It’s impressive, and it opens a lot of opportunities. Scientists have done a fantastic job, but it is not possible to predict what it might lead to. The next step must be concrete proposals on how the tick must be fought, “he said.

Fighting the tick

The tick can be combated, but before that it is necessary with a quick review of the tick’s life cycle.

Tick’s life, which lasts two years can be divided into three stages as the need to suck blood from three different hosts.

  • The larvae hatch in the spring and then immediately go in search of first prey. Lurking, waiting for the prey to pass, usually a small rodent or a bird as it takes hold on and suck blood from in about two days.  Then fall off and goes to sleep completely until next spring, when, after a molt develops into a nymph.
  • The nymph next attacks a larger mammal, for example a human being, as it sucks blood from up to three or four days before they fall and become new molt, which turns it into an adult male or female.
  • In autumn, the adult tick attacks the last prey, a deer, which they mate and suck blood for three to five days. Then they fall off,lay their eggs and die.

Lyme disease can be eradicated in several ways

Tick’s life cycle means that there are several ways to fight Lyme disease on.  If the bacterium has already been transferred, it can be combated with antibiotics if caught in time.

But if one wants to prevent the disease, you have to eradicate the tick.  This can be done by either: 1) try to avoid one of the tick’s life stages and 2) develop a means to prevent the tick to transmit the disease.

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