Managing fleas, ticks and vector-borne diseases (Proceedings)

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Managing fleas, ticks and vector-borne diseases (Proceedings)

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Aug 01, 2009

Importance of ticks

  • Ticks are second only to mosquitoes in the number of diseases that they transmit.
  • Ticks feeding may cause irritation, anemia, hypersensitivity reactions, and toxicosis.
  • Ticks may transmit numerous pathogens including helminths, protozoa, viruses, bacteria (including rickettsiae) and fungi.
  • Several pathogens transmitted by ticks are potential zoonotic agents.
  • Two families of ticks are important in veterinary medicine

Ixodidae (hard ticks)

  • Environmental stages found in open areas on vegetation.
  • Mouthparts visible from dorsal surface.
  • Body capable of limited expansion (dorsal surface covered by leathery scutum [see below]).
  • Balance water using salivary secretions.
  • Secrete cement from salivary glands for attachment.
  • Female hard ticks feed and engorge slowly over long periods.
  • Imbibe many times their body weight in host blood.
  • Females lay thousands of eggs per oviposition in environment.

Argasidae (soft ticks)

  • Environmental stages live in nests and burrows of hosts.
  • Mouthparts not visible from dorsal surface.
  • Body is soft and easily expandable.
  • Life cycle consists of many nymphal stages.
  • Females feed intermittently and lay eggs in masses.
  • Soft ticks do not produce cement for attachment.

Important ixodid (hard) tick species found on companion animals

  • Rhipicephalus sanguineus (Brown Dog Tick)
  • Dermacentor variabilis (American Dog Tick); Dermacentor andersoni (Rocky Mountain Wood Tick)
  • Ixodes scapularis (Black-legged Tick; Deer Tick); Ixodes pacificus (Western Black-legged Tick)
  • Amblyomma americanum (Lone Star Tick); Amblyomma maculatum (Gulf Coast Tick)

Ixodid (hard) tick structure and function

  • Body is divided into head (capitulum [contains mouthparts]), and body (idiosoma).
  • Mouthparts consist of structures that function in tactile sensing (palps), lacerating host skin (chelicerae), and anchoring the tick to the host (hypostome).
  • Body is covered by a complex waxy somewhat inflexible exoskeleton (tegument) that protects the tick from water loss and predators.
  • A scutum (dorsal shield) covers the entire surface of adult male tick, but only a portion of the dorsal surface of female ticks.
  • The scutum is sometimes colored with iridescent white or yellow patches (ornate tick) or may be devoid of such ornamentation (inornate ticks).
  • Partial coverage of the dorsal surface of female ticks allow for enormous expansion during feeding and engorgement.
  • Ticks have an excretory system (malpighian tubules), "liver" (fat body), an open circulatory system with a blood-like hemolymph, a respiratory system (net-like tracheae with openings called spiracles), a rather complex nervous system and a number of sensory structures that detect chemical, thermal, light and mechanical stimuli. A multifunctional organ located on the legs (Haller's organ) receives stimuli used during questing (crawling on vegetation to gain entry onto a host) and host detection. Some ticks have eyes.

Ixodid tick developmental cycles

• Ticks develop through four distinct life cycle stages.
o Egg, larva, nymph, adult
o Larvae, nymphs, and adults are similar in appearance, but differ in size and numbers of legs (larvae possess 6 legs; nymph and adults possess 8 legs).
o Stages increase in size from larva to adult.
o Larvae and nymphs are without features of sexual dimorphism.
• Ticks that infest companion animals are 3-host ticks.
• Most species utilize a different species of host at each stage; R. sanguineus utilizes the dog during each developmental phase.
Ixodes scapularis (Black-legged Tick; Deer Tick) may parasitize in excess of 100 host species representing three vertebrate classes (mammals, birds, reptiles).
• Certain ticks (i.e. R. sanguineus) can complete their life cycles in weeks, while others require two years or more.
• Eggs are laid by replete females in sheltered environments off the host.
• Larvae and each subsequent stage seek a host, feeds to repletion, drop from the host and either molts to next stage or deposit eggs (replete females).

Behavior of ticks in the environment

  • Free-living ixodid ticks reside in numerous environments including forests, savannahs, fields, shrubs and brush.
  • They are capable of developmental arrest (diapause) to allow them to survive periods of environmental stress
  • Diapause is triggered by environmental changes such as day length, temperature changes, and seasonal changes.
  • Ticks seek hosts by questing on vegetation; types and height of vegetation is determined by the host they seek (lower vegetation for smaller hosts; higher vegetation for larger hosts)
  • Ticks utilize vibrations, shadows produced by changing light patterns, body heat and odors and chemicals as host-seeking cues.
  • Ticks literally "grab" hosts as they pass in close proximity to questing sites.

Feeding habits, pathogen transmission, vector competence

  • After gaining access to the host, ticks search for a desired attachment site.
  • Attachment occurs by cleaving the host skin with the chelicerae, insertion of the hypostome (anchor) and production of adhesive cement and salivary secretions.
  • Tick saliva contains numerous moieties that inhibit immune responses, coagulation of blood, and exert anti-inflammatory and early analgesic effects.
  • The tick body undergoes enlargement and expansion (greatest in female) during imbibition of blood.
  • As ticks feed, they ingest pathogens that may be circulating in the host's blood.
  • Pathogens undergo replication in tick gut cells and are disseminated to numerous tick organs (i.e. salivary glands).
  • Pathogens gain entry into a new host when the next stage (after molting) feeds on susceptible hosts (transstadial transmission) or by larvae that hatch from eggs through which the pathogen was passed (transovarian transmission).
  • Successful transmission can occur via salivary secretions, coxal fluid, regurgitated gut contents, contaminated mouthparts, or a combination of these mechanisms.
  • Whether a tick will serve as a successful vector depends on several factors

o Size of bloodmeal ingested, virulence of pathogen, susceptibility of host.
o Capability of pathogen to infect and replicate in the tick.
o Successful dissemination of the pathogen throughout the tick's body.
o Transstadial or transovarial habits of the pathogen.
o Interactions between multiple microbes infecting the same tick.

Tick control

• Treatment of the Animal (numerous available agents; the following are marketed by the veterinary profession) >
o Amitraz (Preventic®, Promeris™ for Dogs)
o Fipronil (Frontline®, Frontline® Plus)'
o Permethrin/Imidacloprid (K9 Advantix™, Vectra 3D™)
o Selamectin (Revolution®)
• Treatment of the environment
o Habitat modification
o Host elimination
o Targeted acaricides
• Integrated Tick Control
o Combination of animal treatment and environment treatment/management.

Vector-borne disease control

• Prevent tick infestation by using appropriate tick avoidance behavior (difficult).
o Avoid tick infested areas
o Wear light-colored clothing (allows you to see tick crawling on clothing)
o Use a chemical repellent such as DEET, (Picaridin??)
• Prevent tick feeding (ticks may gain access to pet host, but do not attach or feed)
o Amitraz (Preventic [collar]), Fipronil (Frontline [spray]), and Permethrin/Imidacloprid (K9 Advantix [spot-on]) can prevent vector transmission.
• Treat host with antimicrobial medications (therapeutic or prophylactic regimens).