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From the mouths of ticks

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2003 - Winter


An anti-coagulant protein in the saliva of the deer tick allows it to suck blood from a single wound for days, according to Yale scientists. The identification of the protein, called Salp14, could lead to therapies for clotting disorders or vaccines against tick-borne diseases.

Mosquitoes and tsetse flies can feed for only a few seconds before clots form. Exactly how ticks bypass this natural defense had been a mystery. “Tick saliva has an array of potent pharmacologic functions,” said Erol Fikrig, M.D., principal investigator for the study, published in the December issue of Insect Molecular Biology. Fikrig said Salp14 blocks the actions of prothrombin, a key participant in the cascade of reactions that lead to blood clots. “If we study it in more detail, it could be used to combat any disease where clot formation is a problem,” said Fikrig. “But this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

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