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Scientists discover how ticks protect themselves from Lyme disease
Ticks have an entirely different immune system from other insects.
Finding could pave way to new interventions

How ticks can survive whilst harbouring bacteria, viruses and parasites has been unravelled by scientists at the University of Maryland.

The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, reveals that ticks have an entirely different immune system from other insects.

For a long time, scientists believed that the tick immune system worked in a similar way to that of mosquitoes and flies. But the researchers found that, in evolutionary terms, ticks are as far removed from insects, as humans are from fish.

"Although the two bugs are seemingly alike, it turns out that the immune system of ticks is quite distinct from insects. Our discovery clarifies the ins-and-outs of how the tick immune system fights bacteria," said senior author Dr Joao Pedra.

The reasearchers first observed that ticks do not possess crucial genes for a proper immune response. This led them to discover a new pathway that recognises three distinct bacteria: the Lyme disease pathogen, Borrelia burgdorferi, and two that cause rickettsial illnesses, Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Anaplasma marginale.

Once the team had identified the components of a tick’s immune system, they proceeded to block the immune response with a molecular technique known as RNA interference. They also over-activated the ticks’ immune system to get rid of bacteria even more efficiently.

According to Science Daily, the team believes that discovery could have exciting implications: by manipulating the tick’s immune system, it might be possible to make ticks less vulnerable to infection. If ticks do not pick up these bacteria in the wild, then they will not be able to pass them on to humans.

“This basic science discovery is fascinating, and may pave the ground for new translational approaches that reduce the negative impact of tick-borne diseases in people,” said Dr Pedra.

More research is now underway to further understand the tick immune response. 

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Giraffe Conservation Foundation named BVNA’s charity of the year

News Story 1
 BVNA president Wendy Nevins has named The Giraffe Conservation Foundation as the association’s charity of the year for 2017/2018.

The Giraffe Conservation Foundation dedicates its work to a sustainable future for wild giraffe populations. Wendy Nevins said: ‘I have chosen the Giraffe Conservation Foundation for the BVNA Charity of the Year because I have always thought Giraffes were magnificent animals.

‘I also think it is important that we look at the wider issue of conservation and education across all species.’  

News Shorts
Scientists win award for openness in animal research

UK scientists have won an award for the 360ş Laboratory Animal Tours project, which offered the public an online, interactive tour of four research facilities that are usually restricted access.

The project won a public engagement award at the Understanding Animal Research (UAR) Openness Awards, which recognise UK research facilities for transparency on their use of animals in research, as well as innovation in communicating with the public.

The tour was created by the Pirbright Institute, the University of Oxford, the University of Bristol and MRC Harwell Institute.