Thursday, February 11, 2016

Tick Genome Contains Good News and Bad News

An international collaboration of scientists led by Purdue University has sequenced the genome of the deer tick, Ixodes scapularis.  The deer tick is of particular interest because of its role in transmitting Lyme Disease and a number of other viruses to humans.  The sequenced genome, along with some proteins and biological pathways that were also identified, could help researchers find ways to prevent the transmission of tick-borne disease and develop new vaccines.  The genome also revealed that ticks have a large number of detoxifying enzymes that make it difficult to develop chemicals to effectively kill them.  At the same time, about 20 percent of the genome contains genes that appear to be unique to ticks, which could be targeted in new tick control methods.
The idea of better pest control is always touchy, because as we invent new ways to kill them they are developing resistance to those ways.  The already high number of detoxifying enzymes these ticks have will probably make it that much easier for them to adapt in this way.  As much as I hate ticks, I have to admit that all the adaptations found in these ticks to make them efficient parasites that often go undetected by their hosts pretty incredible, worthy of being called "highly evolved."  If you want to know what these other adaptations are, go read the article.

1 comment:

  1. Insecticide and pesticide resistance is becoming a real problem with pests and especially pests that carry diseases such as ticks with Lyme Disease. We dont think about ticks being highly evolved but they really are and evolving quickly. I can imagine it will be difficult to discover a pesticide that be effective on ticks and not harmful to humans.