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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory » Research » Research Project #437417

Research Project: Ticks and Human Health

Location: Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory

2020 Annual Report

Objective 1: Develop novel approaches and improve upon existing technologies for surveillance of ticks of medical importance. Objective 2: Develop novel approaches and improve upon existing technologies for control of ticks of medical importance. Objective 3: Conduct fundamental research on established and invasive ticks to understand the roles of tick species in disease transmission.

Molecular techniques will be either modified or developed to identify field specimens of four species of medically-important ticks, the pathogens they transmit, and remnant blood meals (from previous hosts) in questing (“flat”) ticks, collected by conventional means (dragging). Though not a pathogen, per se, mammalian meat allergy as it relates to ticks will also be investigated by existing and developed immunological means in an effort to understand this malady and to limit its impact on people. New tick repellents and formulations will be developed and the mechanism of repellent detection by ticks characterized. This will involve the optimization of an in vitro feeding system for ticks, using a silicone-based feeding system. The use of electrophysiological techniques to characterize tick responses to repellents and antifeedants will also be investigated using state-of-the-art equipment. A project to limit the negative impact of Lyme disease in human will be studied using tracking devices attached to deer (a host of ticks) and rodents (carriers of the Lyme Disease pathogen and other pathogens)The nature of the pathogen will be identified using molecular techniques initially with collaborators, and subsequently, in-house. Additionally, we will conduct molecular identification and artificial feeding studies with a newly-invasive parthenognetic tick and determine any pathogens this tick may acquire and transmit to humans.

Progress Report
Since part of Objective 2 encompasses the “Area-Wide Tick Pest Management” program, progress in repellent/toxicant testing and developing tick control strategies are reported. A capillary feeding technique was successfully used to deliver a systemic acaricide to adult ticks in the laboratory. Adult male and female ticks were fed with rabbit blood dosed with various concentrations of this chemical through capillary tubes twice a day for 5 days. A clear concentration-mortality relationship was established to allow determination of lethal concentration and days of feeding required to achieve tick mortality. This pesticide evaluation method can be applied to screening new acaricidal chemical compounds in the laboratory. This in vitro tick feeding method has the potential to reduce the need for live animals (rodents) in efficacy study of systemic pesticides. Also, in field studies, bait boxes were deployed at field study sites in Howard County, Maryland, as a part of multi-component Integrated Tick Management strategy, though evaluation of these bait boxes were not possible.


Review Publications
Li, A.Y., Cook, S.C., Sonenshine, D.E., Posada-Florez, F., Egekwu, N., Mowery, J.D., Gulbronson, C.J., Bauchan, G.R. 2019. Insights into the feeding behaviors and biomechanics of Varroa destructor mites on honey bee pupae using electropentography and histology. Journal of Insect Physiology. 119:103950.
Machtinger, E.T., Li, A.Y., Lui, Y. 2019. Tick bite risk and tick-borne disease perceptions of school district administrators in the Mid-Atlantic United States. Journal of School Health. 89:959-968.
Machtinger, E., Li, A.Y. 2019. Tick control bait box use by Peromyscus spp. influenced by habitat placement but raises questions on disease ecology. Ecosphere. 10(12:e02972.
Ali, A., Li, A.Y., Tabanca, N., Ali, Z., Khan, I.A. 2019. Insecticidal and repellent activities of cinnamates against mosquitoes and ticks. International Journal of Current Research. 11(09):6814-6818.