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Ticks may cause more diseases

Ticks, researchers in California say, may actually cause more diseases than what we presently know. Ticks carry bacteria that cause disease, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. New evidence published in this month's Journal of Clinical Microbiology implicates ticks in other maladies, including cat scratch fever. Members of a family of bacteria known as Bartonella, cause this infection, as well as another illness known as trench fever.

Scientists had thought that cat scratch fever, which is caused by Bartonella henselae, was passed to humans from cat bites or scratches, as the name would suggest. But past research has found that as many as 30% of human patients infected may not have been bitten or scratched by a cat, and another study linked the infection to tick bites

Dr. Bruno Chomel of the University of California at Davis and one of the study's authors and colleagues, collected hard ticks at three sites in Santa Clara County and extracted DNA from their bodies, hoping to match specific genes to those of Bartonella bacteria. Of the 151 ticks they examined, the researchers found nearly 20% carried a Bartonella species, including those known to cause disease in humans.

Though the study did not provide absolute proof, the authors say, these arthropods deserve a closer investigation.


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