New tick diseases are infecting people: Heartland, Bourbon, SFTV

  • Climate change and population growth have brought humans and mites closer together in recent decades.
  • As technology advances, scientists will be able to identify new viruses and bacteria that can be transmitted by ticks.
  • Invasive strains can cause new diseases or affect the spread of local viruses.

There have always been many viruses and bacteria that can be transmitted to humans through tick bites, but until recently, scientists did not have the resources to identify and identify every new pathogen that tick bites.

Advances in technology and new scientific interest have led researchers such as David Wang, a professor of molecular microbiology at the University of Washington in St. Petersburg. Louis, Research on new disease-causing agents.

Emerging diseases are not necessarily new to nature, he said, but genome sequencing technology has allowed researchers to distinguish known viruses and bacteria from those not documented in the scientific literature.

At least two new tick-borne viruses have been identified in the United States since 2009, and samples of infected people have been sent to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There are probably many more viruses and other pathogens that can be transmitted by ticks and other insects,” Van told Insider. “There are a lot of cases of people with unexplained fevers, and most of them are probably caused by some kind of virus.”

Two new tick-borne viruses have been discovered in the Midwest

Most tick-borne illnesses occur in humans with flu-like symptoms: fever, fatigue, and body aches.

The symptoms are not so specific and are not obvious when an undocumented virus or bacterium causes an infection, Van said.

Such was the case with the Heartland virus, which was first identified in western Missouri in 2009. Two patients were treated for certain tick-borne infections, but when they did not recover, the doctor sent blood samples to the laboratory. virus.

Although Heartland virus disease is relatively rare compared to other infections, scientists in the Midwest have been searching for the disease since it was discovered. The CDC has registered more than 50 cases of severe Heartland virus, and testing has identified another virus in the region.

The bourbon virus was first documented in 2014 in Bourbon County, Kansas, with symptoms similar to the Heartland virus. According to the CDC, some infected people later died. Both viruses are transmitted by a single star tick, which in recent years has spread from the southeastern United States to the entire eastern half.

Gonzalo Vazquez-Procopec, an associate professor of viral disease at Emory University, told Insider that as the temperature warmed, ticks were observed in northern Canada.

Climate change has not only affected the geographical and seasonal distribution of mites, but has also brought people deeper into the mite area. The CDC’s 2016 report showed that as winters soften and the human population grows, overall human-tick interactions are more likely to contribute to new disease reports.

Asian long-horned tick may carry a new virus that causes deadly fevers

In recent years, several new tick-borne viruses have been identified in Asia: Songling virus in China, Alongsham virus in Malaysia, and Yezo virus in Japan, classified between 2019 and 2021.

Most of the insects that spread these newly discovered viruses are not found in the United States. However, an invasive species called the Asian long-horned tick has been spreading through North America since at least 2010.

The Asian long-horned tick was first documented in the United States on a farm in New Jersey in 2017 and has since been found in at least 16 states, according to the CDC.

A study of Asian long-horned mites collected in Virginia in 2021 showed that the invasive pest could be infected with the Bourbon virus. According to research published in the journal Pathogens, ticks can feed a host who has previously been bitten by a local tick (such as a deer).

“If it’s because it’s potentially dangerous [Asian longhorned] The tick is spreading in the United States, and we don’t know what the geographical restrictions will be, ”Wang said.

This species is also thought to be the host of a virus that causes thrombocytopenia syndrome, severe fever, and hemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal. Hundreds of cases have been reported in China each year since the virus was first described in 2011, but it has not yet been documented in the United States.

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