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Research Project: Prevention of Arthropod Bites

Location: Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory

Title: Translating ecology, physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology research to meet grand challenge of tick and tick-borne diseases in North America

item Esteve-gassent, Maria - Texas A&M University
item Castro-arellano, Ivan - Texas State University
item Feria-arroyo, Teresa - University Of Texas
item Patino, Ramiro - University Of Texas
item Li, Andrew
item Medina, Raul - Texas A&M University
item Perez De Leon, Adalberto - Beto
item Rodriquez-vivas, Ivan - Autonomous University Of Yucatan

Submitted to: Archives of Insect Biochemistry and Physiology
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/20/2016
Publication Date: 4/11/2016
Citation: Esteve-Gassent, M.D., Castro-Arellano, I., Feria-Arroyo, T.P., Patino, R., Li, A.Y., Medina, R.F., Perez De Leon, A.A., Rodriquez-Vivas, I. 2016. Translating ecology, physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology research to meet grand challenge of tick and tick-borne diseases in North America. Archives of Insect Biochemistry and Physiology. 92(1):38-64.

Interpretive Summary: Ticks and tick-borne diseases have major impacts on public health and the well being of domestic animals and wildlife. For example, cattle ticks and Cattle Fever disease they transmit remain a major threat to cattle production in the United States. Tick-borne Lyme disease is the most important vector-borne disease affecting people in the United States. Over 30,000 confirmed human cases of Lyme disease are reported annually to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A recent study by CDC estimated the number of people who contracted Lyme disease each year as a result of bite by infected black-legged ticks to over 300,000. Global climate and environment changes are thought to influence tick-host-pathogen interactions and can drive the range expansion of vector tick species and increase of tick-borne diseases among human and animal populations. In order to develop science-based technologies to control tick populations and mitigate the damages caused by ticks and tick-borne diseases, a better understanding of the interaction among ticks, the pathogens they carry, and environmental factors is required. In collaboration with a group of university researchers, we conducted an in-depth review of literature on ecology, behavior, physiology and molecular biology aspects of major vector tick species in the United States. The review summarizes previous research results, identify knowledge gaps, and provide future research directions toward developing novel tick control technologies and management practices to help mitigate the impact of ticks and tick-borne diseases to human health and livestock production. The review is of interest to researchers, public health professionals, and pest control managers concerned with medical and veterinary risks associated with ticks.

Technical Abstract: Emerging and re-emerging tick-borne diseases threaten public health and the wellbeing of domestic animals and wildlife globally. The use of science-based technology to diminish the impact of tick-borne diseases should be an active research effort aimed to protect human and animal populations. Here, we present a review of the current knowledge on effects of biotic and abiotic factors on tick physiology and behavior, adaptation of ticks to their environment, and the impact that climate change will have on their geographic distribution. Environmental pressures will also affect tick population genetics by selecting genotypes able to withstand new and changing environments and by modulating interactions among tick populations. Research on these areas is particularly lacking in the southern US and most of Mexico where we have encountered a lack of knowledge about tick-borne diseases ecology including a lack of knowledge on the identity of the reservoir hosts of several pathogens transmitted by ticks. In addition, we have a poor understanding on how anthropogenic changes to landscapes might be changing the ecology of tick-borne diseases. Knowledge on these areas is needed in order to implement effective integrated tick management strategies. Our research team proposes to move beyond ecology studies focusing on a single pathogen and use instead a metacommunity-based approach; so whole pathogen and host assemblages are addressed integrally. Network analyses can be used to develop mechanistic models involving multi host-pathogen communities. An increase in our understanding of the ecology of tick-borne diseases across their geographic distribution will aid in the design of effective area-wide tick control strategies aimed to diminish the impact of the diseases they vector.