A recent collaboration of doctors has resulted in the sequencing of the complete genome of the tick. In a new Danish report an international team of 93 scientists has completed a study which they actually hope will help eradicate ticks and thereby stop the spread of damaging diseases like Lyme disease.
Co-author Cornelis Grimmelikhuijzen, from the Department of Biology, the University of Copenhagen, Denmark says, “We can use this knowledge to fight against the tick and the diseases it carries. We finally have the opportunity to develop an effective and targeted attack against ticks.”
“Now we understand the tick genetics, we can combat it more effectively and either reduce the number of ticks or perhaps completely eradicate the species and thus the diseases it transmits,” says Grimmelikhuijzen, who estimates that the tick might be extinct in 15 years.
Rene Bødker, an epidemiologist at the National Veterinary Institute, Denmark welcomes the fact that someone has succeeded in sequencing the tick genome.
“It’s impressive, and it opens a lot of opportunities. Scientists have done a fantastic job, but it’s not yet possible to say where it might go now. We now need concrete suggestions for how to fight ticks,” he says.
And others are looking to see how this research may help to fight the diseases, like Lyme disease, that ticks carry.
Of course Lyme disease is only one of many diseases that are spread by ticks which include Babesia, Bartonella, Powassans, Anasplasia, Erlichiosis and Relapsing Fever to name a few.
Another exciting aspect to this research is how scientists may be able to use the sequencing results to develop new antibiotics to counteract the bacterial infection of a tick bite.
“Genome sequencing is in itself a milestone in tick research. Whether it leads to the extinction of, for example, Lyme disease is difficult to say, but it will be exciting to see where the research leads,” says Bødker.
Lorenzo Prendini, associate curator of invertebrate zoology at the American Museum of Natural History has publicly (via the New York Times) stated that the eradication of ticks would not damage our ecosystem which makes us question why there is not a concerted effort to begin such an eradication project immediately.
Many scientists agree that the severity of this world-wide health crisis could be greatly reduced with the elimination of ticks. Perhaps we will live to see it.