Ticks can carry more than Lyme disease, as a newly published study reminds us. Researchers from China and the University of Maryland School of Medicine uncovered a previously unknown tick-borne illness after last spring examining 477 Chinese patients who had suffered tick bites. They determined 6% of the patients had been infected by Anaplasma capra, and in the journal Lancet Infectious Disease, they report that the large majority of those 28 patients had fever; many had dizziness and headache, and five were hospitalized. The infection is treatable with antibiotics, but a press release notes the researchers see the tick-borne pathogen as a possible "substantial health threat" to those who live in the tick's natural environment.
That environment may be a large one. The researchers suspect the taiga tick is what transmits Anaplasma capra. That species is found in China, Japan, and other parts of Asia, as well as Eastern Europe, an area home to about 20% of the planet's people, says Dr. J. Stephen Dumler. "This had never been seen in humans before," notes Dumler. "We still have a lot to learn about this species." One thing they've determined: Anaplasma capra "joins the growing list of human anaplasmosis pathogens with pastoral origins," as an accompanying article in the Lancet Infectious Disease puts it. The bacteria seem to be common in goats, with ticks transmitting it to humans; indeed, "capra" is Latin for "goat." (Meanwhile, researchers are struggling to learn more about the tick-related Bourbon virus.)