In the thirty plus thirty years I have lived, I have never been bitten by a tick. Actually, that might be a lie, and I have no way of knowing. Because, although ticks have hapoon-like beaks, although some species can bite up to two weeks, although some bleed enough blood to swell up to 100 times their weight, their bite is surprisingly smart. “When I was a kid, I had a lot of ticks,” says Adela Oliva Chavez, a tick researcher at Texas A&M University. And yet he doesn’t notice until his aunt removes them from his skin.
The secret to a tick cheat is a tick saliva-strange, slippery, and colorful waters with no living companion. It makes insect bites incredibly itchy and painless, and allows them to feed without the protection of their host’s immune system. As climate change reshapes the planet, saliva is what helps ticks move into new places and habitats – bringing with them many of the deadly viruses, bacteria, and germs they love to import.
Although ticks only feed on blood, they never eat. Sometimes during their many years of life, they can eat only once in each stage: larva, nymph, and adult. Which means, as my friend Sarah Zhang has written before, every meal should be really bad. Unlike mosquitoes and other blood-sucking bugs that can finish feeding and jumping, ticks have to live in the body for days or weeks – a long party that requires them to attach themselves to the host’s body as a temporary organ.
In both cases, saliva is very important. When a tick first bites, its saliva coats the wound with a glue-like substance he opened his mouth. Once secured, the tick will transmit a group of drugs produced by saliva which expands its vessels, while at the same time fighting the chemicals that often cause the injury to close, heal, or feel pain or itch. In most cases, such an attack by foreign molecules would immediately destroy the body’s cavalry. But ticks also have ways to do that. Their saliva is anti-inflammatory and analgesic; it can suppress the alarm signals that cells send to each other, preventing them from coordinating attacks. Spit can reprogram immune cells so they don’t complete their development or receive what they need to gather at the site.
Both methods are possible narrow down the path bacteria, viruses, and parasites that ticks ingest from one host, then transfer to another host. With the tick’s saliva breaking down the skin barrier and maintaining the immune system, the parasite has to do it and come in for a ride. “Stubborn saliva is like a supercar that takes them to the site of disease and rolls out the red carpet,” said Seemay Chou, CEO of biotech startup Arcadia Science. Research has shown that many pathogens are found contagious encourage when they are spat out with saliva, it is good to irrigate the skin of newly bitten hosts. Borrelia burgdorferithe bacteria that cause Lyme disease, will collect the tick’s saliva on its own as a dressingonly surrender invisible and physical protection. Infectious properties of ticks can cross each other: Saravanan Thangamani, of Upstate Medical University, New York, has found evidence that ticks to carry at the same time Borrelia and Powassan virus they can inject More information the latter being new wounds.
Ticks have already spread pathogens to humans and their pets than insects or arachnids. And the danger of ticks can be growth, because the heat and the intervention of humans and wild animals allow them to expand their habitat and enter new areas. In North America, one-star ticks and black-legged ticks have been preparing to travel north to Canada. At the same time, a percent tick-borne diseases are also on the rise, Thangamani told me, and for decades now, the numbers of Lyme disease and tick-borne diseases in several parts of the world have been on the rise. As the cold season gets shorter, the time of year when ticks bite—usually, the hottest months—increases as well. “A lot of places are full of ticks,” said Jean Tsao, an entomologist at Michigan State University. “And they’ll get more.”
It helps prevent many ticks from choosing to pick him up or bite him. Other species, as they push into new areas, have picked up pathogens in the last few years—Bourbon bug, heartland bug—that add to the dangers for us. Many species of ticks are also picky about what they eat: During its lifetime, a single tick “will happily eat reptiles, birds, and birds,” says Pat Nuttall, an entomologist and tick researcher at the University of Oxford. Their saliva is so complex that it can be designed to fight any kind of defense. Remove a tick from a rabbit to a person or a dog, Oliva Chavez told me, and it will recognize – and replace his salivaactually taste it.
Vaccines against Lyme and other tick-borne diseases have been developing. But many researchers think the most effective way is to follow the tick—a way that can, “stop the transmission of multiple pathogens at once,” says Girish Neelakanta, a tick biologist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Anti-tick protection is possible: Research documents pigs, cows, rabbits, goats, and dogs having a permanent defense against arachnid after repeated bites – even taking action that will help the animal to recognize the bite immediately, and sweep away the insect.
But saliva is a slippery target for the immune system to attack. These drugs don’t just shut down the immune system’s response. It constantly renews itself so that it can escape the host’s defenses – as often as every few hours, faster than the immune system can detect. When the body prepares to attack one thing, the tick will switch to another. “It’s a game the tick is playing, catch me if you can,” says Sukanya Narasimhan, a tick researcher at Yale. In order to succeed with ticks, Narasimhan thinks it will be important making vaccines which causes the body to feel the bite of a tick to eat“As soon as the tick arrives,” he said, appropriately aiming for the first things in the saliva.
As ticks continue to take, it’s hard not to have an annoying respect for their pluck. Some scientists think that learning, or maybe imitationtheir saliva can guide them other achievements. Copycatting the spit’s immunosuppressive tendencies may be useful in the treatment of asthma, or drugs that help transplant organs; mimicking its anticoagulants can help prevent blood clots. Other tick compounds have led to research on their potential to act as cancer support. Ticks, after all, have been studying the bodies of animals for millions of years, all with false hope; under their guidance, Chou, the head of Arcadia Science, hopes to learn more about the molecular mechanisms underlying the itch response.
Ticks are not invincible, and some global changes that are causing them to enter new habitats may hinder their progress. Alreadyhe is other parts of the world that have been too hot, too wet, too flooded, too scorched by wildfires for them or their loved ones to survive, including temporary ones. pockets of the American South. A drop in ticks can be good for us. But it could also be a sign of a world epidemic that has grown even bigger. The ticks, no doubt, “will continue to adapt,” Thangamani told me. And yet they, too, have their limits—beyond, but not much, beyond ours.