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Florida Researchers Discover New Virus in Ticks

Tacaribe virus, not known to cause human infections, is in arenavirus family

FRIDAY, Jan. 16, 2015 (HealthDay News) — The Tacaribe virus, an arenavirus, has been found in nearly 10 percent of Lone Star ticks trapped by researchers in north central Florida, according to a new study published online Dec. 23 in PLOS ONE.

“This finding is exciting because it expands the range in which these viruses might be circulating in the environment,” study author Katherine Sayler. Ph.D., of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville, said in a university news release. “It also raises some really interesting questions about human risk.”

“We never thought we would find an arenavirus in a tick. These types of viruses are usually transmitted by rodents,” Sayler said. While the Tacaribe virus has been found in bats, research has shown they are not the natural host, and experts have been unable to find the virus in other mammals.

“We still don’t know which animal is the natural host of this virus, and whether ticks have harbored the virus for a long time, or if this is something new,” Sayler added. “Without knowing if local rodents are a major reservoir of the virus, the extent that Floridians are sickened by the virus, and whether ticks can transmit the virus to humans, it makes it hard for us to know if and when there would be an outbreak. Clearly, much more work must be done.”

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