Historical models could provide key to slowing growth of Texas fever ticks

Image: Texas A&M AgriLife

As the battle against fever ticks rages on, researchers at Texas A&M University and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research are synthesizing historical models in an attempt to curb the pest around the world.

Researchers collaborated for many years to model systems approaches meant to address ecological and regulatory questions about fever ticks, said Pete Teel, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research entomologist who works at the Tick Research Laboratory in the Department of Entomology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Teel said the two species of cattle ticks that affect Texas—Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) annulatus and R. (B.) microplus—were at the center of the study.
These two closely related species are able to transmit pathogens causing bovine babesiosis, or Texas cattle fever. Both ticks and pathogens were brought to the United States on livestock with early settlers from other parts of the world.

Economic losses in cattle include direct losses in meat and milk production through tick blood-feeding. The R. (B.) microplus species now plagues cattle throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It is also now recognized as one of the world’s most pesticide-resistant parasites.

Teel said global prevention of disease and of the direct economic effects of tick parasitism is highly dependent on tick suppression or elimination. Mortality rates in naïve cattle to bovine babesiosis range from 70 to 90 percent.

Hsiao-Hsuan “Rose” Wang, an AgriLife Research scientist at the Ecological Systems Laboratory in the college’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, is lead author on the recently published “Quantitative models of Rhipicephalus ticks: historical review and synthesis,” which appeared in the Sept. 14 Ecosphere Journal.

Wang and Teel were joined by co-authors Michael Corson, researcher with the French National Institute for Agricultural Research; Bill Grant, AgriLife Research ecologist, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences.

Wang said the work is meant to put a global perspective on a number of aspects researchers encountered and how these modelers approached various problems differently.

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