Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Location of viruses in the vector tick's mouthparts makes for quick transmission

04 March 2019

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Infamous vectors of the bacterium responsible for Lyme disease, ticks can also transfer harmful Flaviviruses to their mammal hosts. Among these is Powassan virus (POWV), an often symptomless but occasionally lethal virus, with an increasing number of cases in North America. Tick-borne Flaviviruses like POWV move very quickly from infected ticks to new hosts, suggesting that these viruses are located near the ticks’ mouthparts, in their salivary glands. Pictured is a cross-section of one of these glands, with the salivary duct outlined in yellow and two acini, round clusters of secretory cells, on the right, including one infected with another Flavivirus known as Langat virus (in green). By culturing these glands in the laboratory, researchers can investigate which parts of these tissues are colonised by Flaviviruses, how infection affects them, and how viruses move to new hosts, to ultimately help develop ways of blocking these processes to reduce viral transmission.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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