Scientists Have Found 7 New Infectious Pathogens Spread by Ticks
CALIFORNIA — July 5, 2018
Around the world, diseases spread by ticks are on the rise. Reported cases of Lyme have quadrupled since the 1990s.
Other life-threatening infections like anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are increasing at a much faster pace than Lyme.
And new infectious pathogens are emerging at a troubling rate; scientists have discovered seven new viruses and bugs transmitted through tick bites, which have shown up in the US.
They don't know exactly know what the cause is, perhaps shifting climate patterns or human sprawl or deforestation.
“Whole new communities are being engulfed by this tick every year,” says Rick Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York. “And that means more people getting sick.”
Public health departments are required to report back to the Center for Diseace Control with regards to research and data related to Lyme and these other new tick-borne infections. Those cases combined with county-level surveys and some published academic studies could help in the further development of cures, preventive measures and overall knowledge about these pathogens.
“We’ve got national maps, but we don’t have detailed local information about where the worst areas for ticks are located,” says Ben Beard, chief of the CDC’s bacterial diseases branch in the division of vector-borne diseases. “The reason for that is there has never been public funding to support systematic tick surveillance efforts.”
CDC is currently in the process of organizing a nationwide surveillance program, which will launch within the year. The scientists will pull data about tick prevalence and the pathogens they’re carrying. This is being done to study hot spots of tick populations.
In addition, thirty thousand people will be tested for known tick-borne diseases. The results will be made public along with patient data.
Beard noted that this will enable both people and government agencies to change the way they think about ticks as a public health threat.
“Responsibility for tick control has always fallen to individuals and homeowners,” he said. “It’s not been seen as an official civic duty, but we think it’s time whole communities got engaged. And getting better tick surveillance data will help us define risk for these communities in areas where people aren’t used to looking for tick-borne diseases.”
“If we get definitive results that these work the next task would be to figure out how to make such study more broadly available. Who’s going to pay for it, who’s going to coordinate it?” says Ostfeld. “If it doesn’t work then perhaps the conclusion is maybe environmental control just can’t be done.”
Perhaps then people will also reconsider their attitude to these problems. Maybe they will start wearing protective clothing, and using repellents and undergo regular, timely checkups.