The population of ticks has seen a sudden rise in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported cases of diseases that ticks carry, and they include Lyme in the first place. Ticks have been reported to carry other diseases as well. One of the primary reasons why ticks are so much emphasized on has to deal with their saliva.
What Is Unique About Tick Saliva?
Tick saliva contains proteins and certain enzymes that hide the bites from detection. George Welch, MD, is a cardiologist at Manhattan Cardiology and a clinical instructor in Medicine at New York University who explained that common ticks are capable of secreting multiple proteins, and these proteins inhibit the responses of the local inflammatory system when they attach themselves to a human being.
Ticks block the local skin response and don’t cause any pain, itching, or irritation that you get from typical bug bites. This isn’t good for your health as most of the ailments take a lot of time to work all the way from the tick’s gut to its mouth and then, into the human body. This is the reason why a tick, when removed promptly, minimizes the risks of getting infected with their saliva. However, the good news lies in the fact that these same saliva proteins that block inflammation can even save your life some day.
How Is Tick Saliva Helpful For The Heart?
A dangerous form of heart inflammation that can be difficult to detect is Myocarditis. According to Dr. Welch, “Nearly 30% of myocarditis patients develop severe heart muscle damage that can lead to heart failure and, on certain occasions, sudden death.” He also says that although cardiologists have a clear understanding of how to treat myocarditis by treating inflammation, no good treatments are available yet. However, a recently published study at the Oxford University found that a certain family of proteins found in tick saliva has the ability to “neutralize” chemokines. Chemokines are chemicals released in the hearts of myocarditis patients that cause inflammation.
Shoumo Bhattacharya, MD, is the chair of cardiovascular medicine at the British Heart Foundation and a professor at Oxford who says that the saliva proteins of ticks could be used to treat any inflammation mediated by chemokines. He also says that this treatment might take the form of a skin injection that would be made with purified, lab-cultured tick proteins.
Who Else Will Be Benefited?
It has been believed that myocarditis patients will not be the only ones to benefit from tick saliva. The tick proteins, in the future, could even be used to treat other inflammation-related conditions such as arthritis, colitis, stroke, multiple sclerosis, etc. Dr. Bhattacharya also says that oral delivery, in the form of pills, that would contain nanoparticles of tick proteins could also be a possible way of benefiting from these bugs.
How Legitimate Are These Studies?
Although the above-mentioned studies are legitimately promising, the effectiveness of tick saliva is yet to be proved. The studies on tick saliva are still at the preliminary stages and there is still a lot of work to be done. The findings on tick saliva proteins are specifically targeting the chemokines that trigger inflammation in the hearts of myocarditis patients, and this fact instills a ray of hope in the sufferers. However, the study at Oxford has only provided a few new and exciting avenues for further research. It is still not proved and announced that a cure for myocarditis and other inflammation-related conditions are available. As for today, ticks must still be considered as enemies of our health.