By Karis Tutuska
As bloodsuckers and disease-carriers, ticks are many people’s worst nightmares. However, a recent study conducted by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene has shown that the rapid spreading of an aggressively-biting, disease-carrying tick species may be a blessing in disguise.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is an often-deadly disease carried by American dog ticks. Since 2012, the number of reported cases has increased by a factor of eight, but the number of hospitalizations has halved. This phenomenon was found to correlate with the spread of a different tick species, Amblyomma americanum.
Incidents of Rocky Mountain spotted fever have surged, and related deaths have plummeted in areas infected by Amblyomma americanum.
After much head scratching, the researches discovered that Amblyomma americanum carries the bacterium Rickettsia amblyommii, a genetic relative to the Rocky Mountain spotted fever bacterium that is not deadly to humans. These aggressive ticks vaccinate their victims against Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Who would have thought there would be a silver lining to a tick bite?
R.Bitchell. The lone star tick may be spreading a new disease across America. Health News from NPR. (2015).