Lone Star Tick Rediscovered
A University of Florida researcher rediscovered a kind of tick that harbors a rare virus associated with hemorrhagic fever. Previously, scientists believed the tick had disappeared or gone extinct forty years ago. Roughly ten percent of the Lone Star ticks collected by Katherine Sayler and her fellow researchers at Manatee, O’Leno and San Felasco state parks were found to have the Tacaribe virus. This find represents the first time the virus has been found in the United States.
“I don’t want to alarm people,” said Sayler, a Ph.D. from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. Her findings were recently published in PLOS ONE, an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication that welcomes reports on primary research from any scientific discipline. Part her dissertation, the research was funded by the veterinary college.
“We need to do way more studies and secure funding to see if this virus is transmitted to people via tick bites and whether it causes hemorrhagic fever,” Sayler said. “We need to figure out what mammals have it here in Florida and how it got here.” Sayler is applying for a research grant through the National Institutes of Health to learn what the host animal might be and whether humans have been exposed to the Tacaribe virus.
According t the CDC, Viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHFs) refer to a group of illnesses that are caused by several distinct families of viruses. The term “viral hemorrhagic fever” is used to describe a severe multisystem syndrome. Multisystem refers to multiple organ systems in the body that are affected. In VHFs, the overall vascular system is damaged, and the body’s ability to regulate itself is impaired.
Specific symptoms vary, but initial signs and symptoms often include marked fever, fatigue, dizziness, muscle aches, loss of strength, and exhaustion. Patients with severe cases of VHF often show signs of bleeding under the skin, in internal organs, or from body orifices like the mouth, eyes, or ears. Although they may bleed from many sites around the body, patients rarely die due to blood loss. Severely ill patients suffer from shock, nervous system malfunction, coma, delirium, and seizures. Some types of VHF are associated with renal (kidney) failure.