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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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Charity reveals it treated thousands of pets with dental issues last year

News Story 1
 Battersea Dogs & Cats Home has revealed that its veterinary team performs dental procedures on more than 170 animals every month. Last year the charity says it extracted hundreds of teeth from more than 800 animals and carried out thousands of routine scales and polishes.

To combat the problem, Battersea is urging pet owners to get regular dental checks at their vets, implement a daily oral care routine, feed a good dental chew and only give toys that are designed for dogs, including gentle rubber toys that are less wearing on the teeth. 

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Voting opens for RCVS council elections

Eligible veterinary surgeons can now vote in this year’s RCVS Council elections. Four out of the 10 candidates are already on council and are standing for re-election: David Catlow, Mandisa Greene, Neil Smith, Susan Paterson. The remaining six candidates are not currently on council: John C Davies, Karlien Heyman, John Innes, Thomas Lonsdale, Matthew Plumtree and Iain Richards.

Further information on the candidates can be found on the RCVS website: