Tick spit could save hearts and lives

Tick spit could save hearts an...
A cayenne tick, full of P991_AMBCA
A cayenne tick, full of P991_AMBCA
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A cayenne tick, full of P991_AMBCA
A cayenne tick, full of P991_AMBCA

Although ticks are generally thought of as being the spreaders of illness, they may actually be able to help save peoples' lives. According to a new study from the University of Oxford, proteins found in tick saliva could be used to treat a potentially fatal heart disease.

The disease, myocarditis, typically strikes young adults. It occurs when the heart becomes infected due to a common virus. This causes it to release chemicals called chemokines, which attract cells that cause inflammation. As a result, the heart muscle becomes dangerously inflamed.

According to the university, approximately 30 percent of people with myocarditis go on to experience heart failure.

Thankfully, however, ticks have proteins in their saliva known as evasins. These allow them to feed on their host's blood without causing painful inflammation, and therefore without being noticed. One evasin in particular, P991_AMBCA (found in the cayenne tick), has been shown to bind with and block the effect of chemokines.

"With this latest research, we hope to be able to take inspiration from the tick's anti-inflammatory strategy and design a life-saving therapy for this dangerous heart condition," says Prof. Shoumo Bhattacharya, lead author of a paper on the research. "We may also be able to use the same drugs to treat other diseases where inflammation plays a big part, such as heart attack, stroke, pancreatitis, and arthritis."

Source: University of Oxford

Cool. Go science! It's amazing how many innovations we see coming out so much more often now.
Ralf Biernacki
I read so many articles where inflammation is the big culprit in arthritis, heart disease, and scores of other conditions, and scores of anti-inflammatory drugs are the life-saving ticket to health. But inflammation is a complex, evolved response with dozens of dedicated biochemicals, specialized cells and pathways. It strains belief that this complex response could be developed unless it _increased_ biological fitness and survival. So what is inflammation really for? What are its benefits---which _must_ be there, or it would have been eliminated by selection a long time ago? Until we understand that, blindly fighting inflammation might cause more harm than good.