Research Topic

Tick and Tick-Borne Pathogens: Molecular and Immune Targets for Control Strategies

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Ticks are arthropods known for their negative impact on animal and human health through infestation. They are capable of transmitting a wide range of pathogens including protozoa, viruses, and bacteria including spirochetes and rickettsia. Blood feeding by ticks requires prolonged contact with host tissues ...

Ticks are arthropods known for their negative impact on animal and human health through infestation. They are capable of transmitting a wide range of pathogens including protozoa, viruses, and bacteria including spirochetes and rickettsia. Blood feeding by ticks requires prolonged contact with host tissues and blood, and it has been suggested that the co-evolution of ticks with their natural hosts has resulted in the selection of an appropriate set of salivary components allowing ticks to evade both specific and nonspecific host immunity in order to successfully obtain blood. In their quest for a blood meal, ticks and other blood-feeding arthropod vectors transmit pathogens and inject a cocktail of bioactive molecules into their vertebrate hosts. Tick-borne pathogens have developed mechanisms to survive in the arthropod vector by manipulating gene expression based on the midgut or salivary environment.

The resulting diseases can potentially cause major production losses in livestock, thereby reducing farm incomes, increasing costs to consumers, and threatening trade between regions and/or world markets. It has been estimated that 80% of the world's cattle population is at risk from tick and tick-borne diseases (TBDs) causing estimated annual losses of US$ 22-30 billion.

Acaricides are the main components of integrated tick control strategies, despite of their limited success and the associated hazards caused by improper disposal practices. Tick resistance to acaricides and the risk of contamination by drug residues in dairy and meat products are issues of public concern. It is under this scenario that anti-tick vaccines have emerged as an alternative tool for tick control.

The potential advantages of vaccine-based control strategies include: cost-effectiveness, avoidance of environmental contamination, prevention of drug-resistance, possible prevention of pathogen transmission and its potential applicability in a wide variety of hosts. In the development of an anti-tick vaccine, the first step is the identification of efficacious antigens. A comprehensive understanding of tick proteins and their physiological roles can help shed light on how these parasites overcome host defenses, revealing new molecules of potential use for tick control and therapeutic applications.

With that in mind, various approaches have been developed to obtain an effective vaccine against R. microplus and other ticks. The glycoprotein BM86, a tick gut epithelial cell protein, became the first antigenic candidate used in a commercial vaccine against tick infestation. This vaccine’s demonstrates quite variable efficacy and does not confer enough protection against several R. microplus strains and other tick populations. Therefore, the acceptance of this product is not widespread. Developing an anti-tick vaccine consisting of one or more common tick antigens capable of triggering protective immune responses against heterologous tick challenges would be economically and technically attractive. Additionally, elucidating the role of tick molecules may be a promising avenue for new approaches in developing therapeutic applications.

We encourage investigators to contribute to this Research Topic with original research as well as review articles that will stimulate the continuing efforts to understand tick and tick-borne pathogen biology. We are particularly interested in articles describing the identification or/and characterization of novel targets for control strategies and the interaction between parasites and the host immune system.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to:
• Overview of tick and tick-borne pathogens.
• Current control methods and their limitations.
• Immunity against tick and tick-borne pathogens.
• Genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic approaches to the identification of targets for tick and tick-borne disease control.
• Identification of new targets of immune response to parasites.
• Identification of mechanisms for modulating immunity to parasites.
• Development of new control methods.


Keywords: Tick, tick-borne disease agent transmission, vaccine, control, agent transmission, macular systems


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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