The discovery of how the proteins in a tick’s saliva stop a human’s immune system from running amok could be the answer to treating life-threatening blood disorders, researchers say.
When a tick attaches to a human, it injects a substance that blocks immune receptors, which allows it to remain there without being rejected for up to 10 days, as it feeds on blood. Associate Professor Hans Elmlund, from Monash University and co-author of the joint study with Oxford University, said the ticks had found a way to evade the human immune system.
“They need to do that to be able to bite and feed on their targets for prolonged periods of time,” Associate Professor Elmlund said. “These proteins that the ticks evolved, can be used to inhibit a system called complement and this system can run amok in a number of diseased conditions including some life threatening blood disorders and some rare genetic kidney disorders.”
Professor James Whisstock, the director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging, said the discovery means researchers now have a greater understanding of certain blood disorders.