We all know that ticks transmit the debilitating Lyme disease. Just one single tick is enough to give one individual flu-like symptoms for the rest of his or her life. However, Lyme disease is certainly not the only disease that is carried by these ticks. Ticks also carry a large number of bacteria that can cause infections, and ticks can also carry viruses and even parasites. So given that ticks are so great at making people and animals sick, why don’t ticks themselves become sick from all these pathogens that they are carrying around?
Only recently have scientists started to make headway at finding an answer to the above question. While there are still plenty of questions remaining, researchers do know that ticks fight off disease in a unique way. Mosquitoes and flies, much like ticks, also spread disease by coming into contact with a host’s blood. Unlike mosquitoes and flies, ticks possess a special immune system that lets allows them to withstand even the nastiest of pathogens.
Mosquitoes are only capable of transmitting two pathogens, but a tick, with its stronger immune system, is able to acquire more pathogens as well as being able to transmit six pathogens, easily beating out the mosquito. However, quite similar to mosquitoes, ticks possess sugar-detecting proteins that signal its immune system as to oncoming bacteria.
Since scientists now have a better understanding of how a tick’s immune system functions, they are hoping to help develop more effective methods of preventing the spread of Lyme disease. Although you may hear a lot about how mosquitoes are the most dangerous insects in the world, in the United States the tick is far more dangerous than the mosquito. In 2015 alone, more than thirty thousand cases of Lyme disease were reported in the United States.
Have you ever known someone who had been diagnosed with Lyme disease?