A new invasive tick that can spread diseases has been found in nine eastern states of the United States. When viewed with the eyes, the Asian long-horned tick doesn’t look any much different compared to other species of ticks in the US. If you take a closer look, you will find out that the tick has eight legs, and a rounded body, which includes the mouths that latch onto the host. Reports have it that the tick is known to have been spreading diseases in East Asia, where it originated from.
Based on reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is the first new invasive tick species found in America in the last 50 years. Initially discovered in New Jersey in August 2017, the specimen of this exotic tick has been found in nine other states.
In a December 13 publication of the Journal of Medical Entomology, it was discovered that these arachnids enjoy favorable conditions that enable them to thrive in North America.
“It has the potential to be widespread in the continental U.S. and southern Canada,” says study author Ilia Rochlin, a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “This tick is very adaptable.” He, however, maintained that though these ticks are capable of spreading pathogens earlier as warned by the CDC, the U.S. population is yet to record any active disease transmission.
The Asian long-horned tick was first discovered by a woman in New Jersey while shearing her pet sheep. “The original sheep had a lot of ticks,” says Andrea Egizi, a research scientist with Monmouth County, New Jersey. “Probably in the thousands.”
The researcher identified the roots of the species using DNA sequencing (Haemaphysalis longicornis). She was not certain of the next move after making the discovery
The proliferation of the ticks later came to the knowledge of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and CDC. “We have been watching the story unfold for a number of months,” says Ben Beard, a researcher for the CDC. These new developments led researchers into further re-examining of older collections. The research reveals that the Asian long-horned ticks have been in the U.S. since 2010. No one can actually explain how the ticks got into the united states.
So far, research is still lacking with regard to this tick species. “Compared to mosquitoes, ticks are kind of neglected,” says Rochlin. “They’re the orphan of medical entomology despite their huge public health impact.” In his research, Rochlin compared certain factors, including environmental characteristics of the Asian long-horned tick’s native range in Eastern Asia, New Zealand and Australia to different areas in North America. He discovered that there are certain similarities in terms of temperature, relative humidity, and precipitation between the united states and Canada with the Easter Asian that predisposed them to the spread of the ticks.
“It’s a very well-done study,” said Krisztian Magori, a biologist at Eastern Washington University. In his study, Magori also found the same results as Rochlin. However, he added that no research model is perfect yet, considering the fact that available data are not adequate. “We don’t know exactly how far it’s going to go,” he said, “But what [Rochlin] is providing is the best guess,” he concluded.