Recently, the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine made an alarming discovery in Boone County, Missouri. Invasive longhorned ticks were found for the first time in the area, raising concerns about potential problems for cattle health in mid-Missouri. This tick species is notorious for causing significant financial losses to livestock producers worldwide and can even transmit various pathogens to humans.
The discovery was made by Rosalie Ierardi, a clinical instructor at the MU Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, who had previously encountered the same ticks in northern Missouri. The longhorned ticks have the ability to transmit theileriosis, a disease that proves fatal to cattle by attacking their red blood cells. Infected cattle may experience weight loss, weakness, fatigue, jaundice, and pregnancy loss, leading to economic consequences for cattle ranchers.
Originally from eastern Russia and Australasia, the invasive longhorned ticks first appeared outside of quarantine in the United States in 2017, specifically in New Jersey. Since then, they have rapidly spread throughout various regions, with at least 19 states officially detecting their presence.
The situation is a cause for concern, as climate change and increased outdoor activities in tick-prone areas have contributed to higher rates of tick-borne pathogen transmission to wildlife, humans, and pets. Female longhorned ticks can lay thousands of eggs asexually, facilitating their rapid establishment in new territories.
Professor Ram Raghavan, an expert in public health and veterinary medicine at MU, has been tracking tick species in the U.S. for 16 years. In a 2019 study, he accurately predicted the potential geographic distribution of the longhorned tick, and now his predictions have become a reality.
As these ticks seem to be here to stay, vigilance is crucial. The university is committed to helping Missouri veterinarians and livestock producers monitor animal health. Long-term monitoring is necessary in the central Midwest, where essential knowledge about tick biology is still lacking.
Missouri livestock producers are advised to seek assistance from their local veterinarian or the MU VMDL if they notice signs of weakness, fatigue, jaundice, or pregnancy loss in their cattle. Early detection and prompt action can help mitigate the impact of this emerging threat on cattle health and the agricultural industry.
Source: University of Missouri