Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted through the bite of a tick. It causes a round rash and can cause flu-like symptoms, but usually resolves with antibiotics within a few weeks or months. In the photo: a stock of ticks
Lyme disease may become a thing of the past as scientists believe they will soon be able to stop the ticks that transmit the bacterial infection.
American experts have found a way to edit the genes of arachnid creatures that feed on blood.
This opens up the possibility for researchers to modify parts of tick DNA that help them carry and transmit disease-causing bacteria.
And this discovery could pave the way for the release into the wild of genetically engineered ticks that are unable to spread disease.
Similar tactics have already been applied to mosquitoes as part of trials to limit the spread of malaria and dengue fever.
The approach involves the use of the CRSIPR/Cas9 system, which works like DNA scissors.
He will see ticks injected with an enzyme that cuts off some of their DNA, allowing the ticks to carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
It was believed that it was impossible to use this technology on ticks because their eggs are covered with hard wax, through which injections cannot penetrate.
But now a team at the University of Nevada has found a way around this by using the Crispr tool to reshape the ovaries of the mites so that their eggs are not coated in wax but remain viable.
This allowed the scientists to inject their own eggs and remove problematic genes.
The results, published in the journal iScience, showed that it worked in one in seven cases, meaning it could be used in the future.
They also tested injecting an enzyme that kills Lyme disease bacteria directly into pregnant female ticks, so it affected the DNA of their offspring.
It was slightly less successful, working one out of nine times.
Professor Jason Rasgon, a Pennsylvania State University epidemiologist and technology developer, said: “Ticks are a formidable public health enemy.
WHAT IS LYME DISEASE?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted to humans by infected ticks.
It causes symptoms such as a circular or oval rash around the tick bite that usually appears within four weeks of the bite but can take up to three months to appear.
Some people also develop flu-like symptoms a few days after being bitten, including high fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and loss of energy.
And for some of those treated for Lyme disease, symptoms such as fatigue, pain, and loss of energy persist for years.
It is not clear why some suffer from ongoing symptoms, and there is no agreed upon treatment for this illness.
Not all ticks carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, but infected ticks can be found throughout the UK.
High risk areas include grassy and wooded areas in the north and south of England and the Scottish Highlands.
People are advised to remove ticks safely and as soon as possible using tweezers.
“We desperately need new tools to fight ticks and the pathogens they spread.
“The techniques (two gene editing) can be used to develop new disease control methods as well as further understanding of tick biology.”
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by the bite of a tick. Although not all ticks that hide in forests and grassy areas carry the bacteria.
It causes a round rash and can cause flu-like symptoms, but usually resolves with antibiotics within a few weeks or months.
However, some people experience symptoms, including fatigue, pain, and loss of energy, which can last for years.
There is currently no vaccine, and existing antibiotic treatments are not always effective.
Around 900 cases of Lyme disease are reported in the UK each year, but the true toll is thought to be around 3,000. In the US, the numbers are 30 times higher.
Dr Monica Gulia-Nuss, co-author of the study, said: “Despite their ability to acquire and transmit a number of harmful pathogens, research on ticks lags behind other arthropod vectors such as mosquitoes, mainly due to application problems. available genetic and molecular tools.
“Previously, no laboratory has demonstrated the possibility of modifying the tick genome. Some thought it was too technical.
“This is the first study to demonstrate that ticks can be genetically transformed by not one, but two different methods.”
Other tick-borne diseases include babesiosis, which infects and destroys red blood cells, and tick-borne encephalitis virus, which attacks the central nervous system.
Only a few cases of each have ever been discovered in the UK.
Both cause flu-like symptoms, but immunocompromised people can become more severely ill and die.
Ticks can also transmit the bacteria to wild and domestic animals.
Experts warn that climate change is helping to spread infections to new areas, putting more people and animals at risk.