engorged deer tick, sits fingertip of Catherine Hill
female tick, engorged with blood
Ticks as small as a freckle can transmit a number of illnesses for which there is no vaccine and, in some cases, no cure. These creatures even could become bioterrorism weapons.
To find new ways to control the tiny animals and halt the spread of the pathogens they carry, Purdue University researchers and colleagues from the University of Connecticut Health Center, the University of Notre Dame and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are undertaking the job of unraveling the genetic makeup of one variety of the creature, called the deer or black-legged tick. "This will be the first time researchers have explored a tick genome in depth," said Purdue’s Catherine Hill, project co-principal investigator. "It’s crucial to learn how ticks spread serious illnesses because of the global health threats these diseases pose. "From a bioterrorism standpoint, it’s pretty clear ticks could transmit a number of diseases that intentionally could be introduced and conveyed to people."
The scientists involved in this project have formed the International Ixodes scapularis Sequencing Committee. One of the potential outcomes of this project may be development of vaccines to block transmission of microbes that cause tick-borne illnesses, said Hill, who spearheaded efforts to gain National Institutes of Health backing for the initial stages of the tick genome venture.
Susan A. Steeves | EurekAlert!
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