Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tacaribe Virus in Ticks

Researchers at the University of Florida have found that ticks native to southeastern US carry the Tacaribe virus from the family Arenaviridae.  Previous to this discovery the virus had not been isolated in animals or humans in the US. A recent study recorded that about 10% of the ticks that were captured from northern Central Florida contain the virus.  In most cases isolating a virus from an insect isn’t very notable; however several properties of this viral family make this discovery important.  Firstly, the majority of Arenaviruses that infect humans cause severe hemorrhagic disease particular in South America and sub-Saharan Africa.  Viruses such as Lassa virus and Machupo virus can easily kill those without access to medical care.  Fortunately Tacaribe virus doesn’t cause disease in humans.  Secondly, most Arenaviruses that infect humans are transmitted via rodents and their excrements making an insect intermediate host very interesting.  Katherine Sayler, a scientist at the University of Florida Veterinary School said, “This finding is exciting because it expands the range in which these viruses might be circulating in the environment.” With this increased range, also comes increased risk of exposure and infection. The virus was first isolated in bats in Trinidad in the 1950s.  Despite this finding the researchers believed that bats were not the natural reservoir of this virus.  Further attempts to identify the natural reservoir has been unsuccessful.  Discovering that ticks now harbor the disease gives us more answers but it still doesn’t give us the whole picture. 

-Nalani Wakinekona


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