Lonestar tick: a possible vector
A recently discovered phlebovirus named Heartland virus continues to be a mystery to researchers. Heartland virus (HTRV) was discovered in 2009 in Missouri, and has so far only been identified in eight patients. The CDC has taken an interest in the virus, which can cause fever, malaise, nausea, headache, and muscle pain as well as leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, and elevated liver enzymes.
Scientists believe that like other members of bunyaviridae, HTRV is transmitted by ticks. So far all patients had a known tick bite prior to infection. Currently, scientists are trying to discover where the reservoir of the virus is. In a newly published study researchers infected mice, raccoons, goats, rabbits, hamsters and chickens to see if the virus would replicate to detectable levels. Although some animals showed a small amount of immune response, the results were overall inconclusive. Several hypotheses include a deer reservoir, transovarial transmission (passing from parent tick to offspring), or transmission between co-feeding ticks. Time will tell, and Heartland Virus remains a mysterious arbovirus to watch.
Elisa Hofmeister ‘18