Rutgers researchers and other scientists have created a visual guide to help identify and control the Asian longhorned tick, which transmits fatal human disease to its home countries and threatens cattle in the United States.
The patch was found in most of the eastern parts of the United States thanks to discoveries in which researchers at Rutgers University played a key role. Scientists have now struggled to determine how widespread these invasive ticks have become in North America. But this is a complicated matter, especially since Asian long-term ticks are almost identical to both native species – tickling ticks and bird ticks, which are most often harmless to humans.
Now, a joint research team, including members of the Rutgers Center for Vector Biology, has created a guide that facilitates anyone with a powerful microscope to tell Asian long-term ticks other than those of North American cousins as well as Central American species.
The guide, published in ZooKeys, identifies small details – such as two triangular, horny incitations to the lips of Asian long-ticks, which place ticks from each other. These details are visible on scanning electron microscopy images made by collaborators of the research team.
"To begin to understand the threat of Asian long ticks in the United States, we need to know the full range of its distribution," said lead author Dr. Andrea Egisi, visiting professor at the Rutgers Center for Vector Biology and research scientist with the Program for diseases transmitted by the County Monmouth. "We have made this key for researchers across the country to have an easier way to identify them."
Co-operation between Rutgers and Monmouth County led to the identification of Asian long life in 2017, after a resident of Hunterdon County discovered tick sheep ticks, with a subsequent confirmation from the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratory. In April 2018, the group found that ticks survived the winter in New Jersey. Since then, Asian long-term ticks have been found in Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
"We now know that the Asian longhorned tick has been present in New Jersey since at least 2013, but that first discovery, found at a dog in Union County, was initially wrong to crack," said author Dina Fonseca, the Center for Vector Biology at Rutgers. "We hope this visual guide will help us identify and control the expansion of this tick."
Asian long-term ticks were born in eastern Asia, where they transmit potentially fatal diseases in humans. They are invasive and serious harmful pests in Australia and New Zealand. They are reproduced asexual, which means that an infertile woman can produce many offspring offspring, allowing these ticks to spread rapidly.
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