Irani and Larkin Publish on Local Tick-Borne Disease Pathogens

Posted on 10/28/2016 3:04:22 PM

Vida Irani (Infectious Diseases, Biology) and Jeffery Larkin (Conservation and Ecology, Biology) have published a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary research study on tick-borne pathogens titled “Adult Ixodes scapularis Ticks in a Lyme Disease Hot Spot are Vectors for Emerging Pathogens” in the open-access journal SOJ Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

In 2015, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study reported that Lyme, a debilitating tick-borne disease, is expanding westward in the northeastern United States, with counties in western Pennsylvania (including our own Indiana County) identified as high-incidence areas. While the incidence of Lyme disease and its pathogen (the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi) are increasingly well understood, the degree to which ticks carry other human disease agents, either singly or in combination, is little known.

Irani and Larkin tested adult I. scapularis (black-legged or deer) ticks from nine recreational areas in Indiana County for the Lyme disease pathogen and for two other emerging, blood-borne pathogens: the protozoan Babesia microti (which causes human Babesiosis) and Anaplasma phagocytophilum (the bacterium that causes human Anaplasmosis).

Their results confirm high levels of Borreliain Indiana County ticks and also document the prevalence rates for Babesia and Anaplasma. Importantly, they demonstrate that the likelihood that ticks are carrying any one or more of the pathogens is quite high (>50%), reinforcing the need for vigilance when engaging in outdoor activities in this area.

Their results also suggest that a focus upon Lyme disease pathogen only will be dangerous, given that other tick-borne pathogens exist in this area. As such, both the public and our health professionals must make informed decisions for the prevention, diagnoses, and treatment of tick-borne diseases.

Supported by the IUP University Senate Research Committee.

Department of Biology