St. Louis Public Radio News
6:04 pm
Thu February 25, 2010

Researchers develop new tool against tick-borne diseases

St. Louis, MO – Ticks will suck the blood of just about anything: squirrels, birds, deer - and of course, people. They can also transmit disease.

Washington University post-doctoral researcher Brian Allan wanted to figure out which wild animals carry those tick-borne diseases. And he used the ticks' bloody meal, to do it.

Allan says that with the help of a new technology, he and his colleagues were able identify the DNA in the blood meal of disease-carrying ticks - and thus identify which species of wild animal the ticks fed on.

Knowing which animals are carrying tick-borne diseases, says Allan, will allow researchers to break the disease transmission cycle, by finding ways to prevent ticks from feeding on those hosts.

His research is published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.