NIH scientists explore tick salivary glands as tool to study virus transmission and infection

News Release, National Institutes of Health

The salivary glands of some tick species could become important research tools for studying how viruses are transmitted from ticks to mammals, and for developing preventive medical countermeasures. Tick salivary glands usually block transmission, but a new study conducted by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health focuses on the role of salivary glands in spreading flaviviruses from black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) to mammals. The new study, published in the journal mBio, advances the researchers’ work published in 2017 that established cultured tick organs as a model for flavivirus infection.

Flaviviruses include dengue virus, Zika virus, West Nile virus, yellow fever virus, Powassan virus and several other viruses. Powassan is the only endemic flavivirus spread by ticks in North America, where it is considered a re-emerging virus. Physicians in the United States have reported roughly 100 cases of disease in the past decade, half of them in 2016-17. Powassan virus disease occurs primarily in northeastern states and the Great Lakes region. Though disease caused by Powassan virus is rare—most people who become infected with Powassan virus do not develop any symptoms—the virus can be transmitted very rapidly. Within 15 minutes, an infected tick can transmit the virus to a person or other mammal on which it is feeding. Symptoms of Powassan virus disease can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, and seizures. If the virus infects the central nervous system, it can cause brain inflammation and meningitis. Debilitating long-term neurological problems or even death may occur.

In examining the molecular interactions between black-legged ticks and mammals, the NIAID scientists have learned that flaviviruses reproduce in specific locations in tick salivary gland cultures. This could explain why virus transmission occurs so quickly. They also noted that only certain types of salivary gland cells are infected, and they identified a specific tick gene that is involved in infection. Taken together, these findings help identify transmission pathways that potentially could be blocked with a countermeasure. The group also is assessing how viruses grow in cells of the cultured tick midgut to help identify different viruses that can grow in black-legged ticks.

The Southern Maryland Chronicle is a local, small business entrusted to provide factual, unbiased reporting to the Southern Maryland Community. While we look to local businesses for advertising, we hope to keep that cost as low as possible in order to attract even the smallest of local businesses and help them get out to the public. We must also be able to pay employees(part-time and full-time), along with equipment, and website related things. We never want to make the Chronicle a “pay-wall” style news site.

To that end, we are looking to the community to offer donations. Whether it’s a one-time donation or you set up a reoccurring monthly donation. It is all appreciated. All donations at this time will be going to furthering the Chronicle through hiring individuals that have the same goals of providing fair, and unbiased news to the community. For now, donations will be going to a business PayPal account I have set-up for the Southern Maryland Chronicle, KDC Designs. All business transactions currently occur within this PayPal account. If you have any questions regarding this you can email me at davidhiggins@southernmarylandchronicle.com

Thank you for all of your support and I hope to continue bringing Southern Maryland the best news possible for a very long time. — David M. Higgins II




© 2019 The Southern Maryland Chronicle. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.