NASHVILLE, Tenn.–An invasive tick native to Southeast Asia has now spread to three counties in Tennessee, just one of 11 states now seeing the species spread in the United States.
In a teleconference call issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USDA Entomologist Denise L. Bonilla says the Asian longhorned tick is spreading quickly thanks in part to females not needing a male to lay eggs. It creates explosive mini-populations and will co-feed on hosts with other tick species.
University of Tennessee Entomologist Rebecca Trout Fryxell confirmed the Asian longhorned tick has now been collected in Knox County, joining previous findings of the tick in Union and Roane counties.
One reason for concern is the Asian longhorned tick can feed in what is known as a tick mass, where large populations join to feed on host animals such as livestock and wildlife. In severe cases, the amount of blood loss could result in death.
Another reason for concern is in studies outside of the U.S. where the tick is native, they have been shown to carry multiple bacteria, parasites, and viruses which can be transmitted to humans. Although no human transmission cases from the Asian longhorned tick have been reported so far, their ability to populate so quickly means they could increase the likelihood of transmission to animals and humans.
One such pathogen is a sugar molecule known known to cause Alpha-gal syndrome, which creates an allergic reaction to red meat in humans. Already reported in 39 states -Tennessee one of the first among them- scientists say the ability for female Asian longhorned ticks to reproduce so quickly could also exacerbate spread of Alpha-gal. Currently, the Lone Star tick is the primary culprit for spread of Alpha-gal but the longhorned is a species capable of carrying the sugar molecule.
Doctors say all of this adds up to an increasing number of new tickborne agents spreading disease in the country. The Asian longhorned tick has also been reported in Kentucky, Arkansas, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York State, and West Virginia. Favorite hosts of the tick are white tail deer, dogs, racoons, cows, and humans -though humans don’t seem to be a preferred host.
For more details on the Asian longhorned tick, CLICK HERE.