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Oct 03, 2013 10:26 AM EDT

Wisconsin Professor Discovers A Potentially New Tick Species?

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Tony Goldberg, veterinary medicine professor of path biological sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has possibly discovered a new tick species belonging to 'Amblyomma Genus.' The discovery was made after his return from a trip to Kibale National Park in western Uganda, June 2012.

"When I got back to the U.S., I realized I had a stowaway," Goldberg, associate director for research in the UW-Madison Global Health Institute, said in an official statement. "When you first realize you have a tick up your nose, it takes a lot of willpower not to claw your face off."

Without panicking, Goldberg calmly removed the tick with the help of a long forceps, flashlight, and a mirror. When the tick was examined for DNA sequencing, Goldberg along with Sarah Hamer, a colleague at Texas A&M University and Lorenza Beati-Ziegler, curator of the U.S. National Tick Collection at Georgia Southern University, couldn't match its sequence with any known species in any database.

"Either it's a species of tick that is known but has never been sequenced, or it's a new species of tick," Goldberg said.

Determined to know the tick's species, Goldberg approached Richard Wrangham, a Harvard University chimp expert. By using high-resolution digital photography, Wrangham and colleagues closely observed Goldberg's photos, which revealed that ticks were present in one-fifth of the chimps' noses.

After further analyzing previously published studies, his international hitch-hike nose tick mostly belongs to the genus Amblyomma.

"Amblyomma are known disease carriers, so this could be an underappreciated, indirect, and somewhat weird way in which people and chimps share pathogens," Goldberg said.

Goldberg said that this type of parasite becomes undetectable during international journeys. In this case, taking frequency of global travel into consideration, ticks could very well establish exotic tick populations and spread disease to other countries easily.

The discovery with his co-authors has been published in the current (Sept. 30, 2013) online issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Goldberg is yet to find out whether his nose tick is a new species. As the discovered specimen was a nymph rather than a full adult; he could not recognize it by its morphological features. He also has yet to determine the species of the chimp ticks.

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