Ticks are important vectors of human and animal diseases. They are only second to mosquitoes in terms of pathogens they transmit and their implication in public health. They are responsible for the transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi which cause Lyme disease in humans. They are obligate blood feeders and parasite a wide range of vertebrate species. Ticks are cosmopolitan and can virtually be found in all regions of the world.
Classification and Importance
Ticks are important disease vectors that can be found in all parts of the world. Taxonomically, ticks belong to the suborder Ixodida in the order Parasitiformes. There are three main families in the ixodid ticks including, Ixodidae, Argasidae and Nuttalliellidae. Ticks in the family Ixodidae are known as hard ticks. Females ixodids have a hard cuticular plate (scutum) on half of their dorsal part. In male, the scutum is also present on the entire dorsal part. Argasids are distinguished from other ticks because their body is soft as compared to hard ticks.
Ticks and Disease Transmission
In 1893, Smith and Kilborne demonstrated that the role ticks in the transmission of Texas cattle fever. The causative agent, a protozoan (Babesia bigemina) was transmitted to cattle by the cattle tick Boophilus microplus. The most prevalent tick-borne disease in the United States is Lyme disease. Ticks can also cause severe diseases to human and animals because of proteins that they inject into their host during blood-feeding.
Bio-ecology of Ticks
Ticks have 4 developmental stages including eggs, larvae, nymphs and adults. Hard ticks undergo only one nymphal instar, while soft ticks have two or more nymphal instars. All ticks feed on blood at least during one or more stage of their life cycle. Ticks can survive for up one or more years, even without feeding.
Ticks Prevention and Control Strategies
Tick control rely heavily on the use of pesticides known as acaricides. In the United states,Boophilus annulatus, responsible for the transmission Texas cattle fever, was eradicated by dipping cattle into acaricide solutions. This treatment contributed to the eradication of the disease (reference). Acaricide treatment continue to be the best option for tick eradication and prevention. For human, personal protection is the best option especially for people camping outdoors. Whenever going outdoor with possibility of tick attacks, it is recommended to wear boots and long trousers to limit contact with ticks. Special repellent may also be used to reinforce the protection against tick bites. Pest repellent such as DEET is very efficient in repelling a wide range of arthropods including ticks. There are several products on the market that contains DEET either as lotion or spray and can be used for that purpose.