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The World in Medicine
February 18, 2009

Targeting Ticks

JAMA. 2009;301(7):712. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.168

A vaccine or other method of interfering with proteins involved in iron metabolism might help reduce the toll of tick-transmitted infections, according to a study by scientists from the Czech Republic (Hajdusek O et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009;106[4]:1033-1038).

Ticks are exposed during blood feeding to large amounts of free iron, but the mechanism by which ticks manage the excess iron (and avoid its potentially toxic effects) is poorly understood. The researchers explored how ticks use, store, and transport iron within the tick using ferritins (FER1 and FER2) and iron regulatory protein 1 (IRP1). They also demonstrated that silencing the genes that encode these 3 proteins decreased hatching rate and the weight of female ticks after a blood meal. They also found that silencing the gene for FER2 dramatically impaired ticks' ability to feed.

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