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Larval Black-Legged Tick

A black legged tick larvae imaged with fluorescent dye.
Credit: Utpal Pal/ University of Maryland

Research, published in Science, has identified an inter-species signaling pathway between an arthropod parasite and host, where molecules in the blood of a host animal trigger the immunity and development of a parasite. The study showed that when ticks feed on the blood of mice infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, a protein from the mouse immune system binds to receptors on tick cell surfaces and signals the tick's organs to develop more rapidly, producing an immune response long before the bacteria itself can begin to infect the tick.

“Understanding that this pathway integrates immunity and development has important implications for potential strategies to prevent tick-borne disease transmission,” – Utpal Pal, senior author of the study and a professor in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at College Park.

This image shows a black-legged tick larva microinjected with various fluorescent dyes to enhance the visual appearance.


Publication: Rana VS, Kitsou C, Dutta S, et al. Dome1–JAK–STAT signaling between parasite and host integrates vector immunity and development. Science. 2023;379(6628):eabl3837. doi: 10.1126/science.abl3837


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Larval Black-Legged Tick

Credit: Utpal Pal/ University of Maryland
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