University of Tennessee researches invasive tick

The University of Tennessee has received a $150,000 grant to help researchers map the spread of the invasive Asian longhorned tick.

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded the grant for scientists at the university to track the disease and develop a strategy to help farmers, ranchers and pet owners protect their animals.

Tennessee this year was identified as one of the 12 states home to this species of tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis), which was first found in the United States in 2017 and whose bite has made people and animals seriously ill in other countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can carry several serious human pathogens, including the potentially fatal thrombocytopenia syndrome.

It’s also a threat to animals, including livestock and pets. The tick reproduces asexually and rapidly. They feed in large population clusters, and, according to the announcement from the University of Tennessee, they can extract enough blood to cause anemia in grown livestock and death in young animals.

“Funding from FFAR, along with technical and resource support from our partners, has helped us detect this invasive tick species in eight Tennessee counties,” said Rebecca Trout Fryxell, a medical and veterinary entomologist at the University of Tennessee and the lead researcher on this project. “We are finding them on both canines and cattle. By working with local producers, we are learning more about the life cycle of this species, and specifically when and where it is found on a farm.”

University researchers are collaborating with academic, government and industry stakeholders to develop a tick surveillance network. Members of the network include the Tennessee departments of agriculture and health, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local animal shelters, producers, livestock markets and university extension agents.