A new species of tick has been found in the United States. Researchers from Missouri State University have located the tick in Southwest Missouri.
In 2019, David Claborn, professor and director of the master of public health program, and Kip Thompson, associate professor of public health and sports medicine,began research on the Asian Longhorned Tick to see if it was in the area.
Their research came to a halt in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but resumed in 2021 after they were awarded a $17,000 grant for the research.
After searching locally, the researchers told The Standard they found six juvenile ticks. However, this tick is not particularly interested in humans -- its main focus is cattle.
Dr. Thompson said the Asian Longhorned Tick, native to China, is an insect that can be less than 1 millimeter in size and can have damaging effects on herds of cattle. It is possible the tick was brought here by birds, as they can attach themselves before flight.
Thompson said what makes the Asian Longhorned Tick so dangerous as an invasive species is that they breed parthenogenetically. “Females are able to breed without sperm,” Thompson said. “It’s a good system to rapidly colonize an area.”
“In cattle, it transmits a disease that’s related to human malaria, and it can be fatal in cattle,” Claborn said. “The cattle are going to be really, really lethargic.”
In addition to lethargy, Thompson said farmers can look for symptoms such as pale gums, weakness and spontaneous calf abortions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said malaria attacks red blood cells, whereas the disease that the tick transmits affects both red and white blood cells, which can weaken the cow’s immune system and cause anemia.
At Missouri State’s Journagan Ranch, about ten miles from Mountain Grove, the tick has not been found. According to Thompson and Claborn, the ranch feeds their cattle a lot of garlic as a natural repellent and has not had any issues.
In regard to how the disease might affect consumers, Dr. Claborn said there won’t be a major cost. “It would just make the cost of keeping the cattle healthy a little higher. It’s not going to project a whole lot of risk to humans.”
Thompson said although the tick can serve as a vector, meaning it has the potential to transmit a disease to humans, that does not always mean the tick has the disease.
“If you are outside where ticks might occur, tuck in your shirt, tuck your pants into your boots and use DEET,” Thompson said.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency said DEET is an ingredient commonly used to repel insect bites from ticks and mosquitoes.
If someone thinks they have found the Asian Longhorned Tick, they can preserve the tick and send it to the researchers.
“The best way to preserve the tick is to put it in a bag with a little rubbing alcohol,” Thompson said.
The researchers may send the sample to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a Polymerase Chain Reaction DNA Test to confirm the identity of the tick. The address to send a sample to the researchers is 606 E Cherry St, Springfield, MO 65897 and should be made out to David Claborn or Kip Thompson.
“I expect we will see more of them with time. As a matter of fact, right after we detected the species down here, there was another specimen of it detected out in the Kansas City area,” Claborn said.
The researchers will continue their research and monitor the area for the tick.
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