CDC/ Dr. Gary Alpert - Urban Pests - Integrated Pest Managemen

Single Tick Bite Can Transmit More Than Just Lyme Disease Interview with:

Jorge Benach, PhD Distinguished Toll Professor Molecular Genetics & Microbiology and Pathology Renaissance School of Medicine Stony Brook University

Dr. Benach

Jorge Benach, PhD
Distinguished Toll Professor
Molecular Genetics & Microbiology and Pathology
Renaissance School of Medicine
Stony Brook University What is the background for this study?

Response: The increases in the numbers of cases of tick-borne diseases in the nation, and the increases in the number of cases in our area were the catalysts to document the levels of infection with a number of pathogens in the vector ticks. In addition, there were indications that an invasive tick species, the lone star tick, had taken a foothold in our area and had brought new tick-borne pathogens. Identification of the multiple pathogens was made possible by the molecular probes developed by Dr Rafal Tokarz, another corresponding author of our study What are the main findings?

Response: The levels of infection of the Ixodes tick with the Lyme disease agent exceed 50%. This tick co-transmits other pathogens. Babesia microti, a hemoprotozoa, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, a bacterium, Borrelia miyamotoi, another spirochete, and Powassan virus, a neurotropic agent. Polymicrobial infections were detected in 19%, with B. burgdorferi and B. microti (9%), and B. burgdorferi and A. phagocytophilum (7%) being the most common co-infections. The study verified the abundant presence of the lone star tick and the newly introduced Ehrlichia species in 4% of these ticks. In addition to the pathogens, this study documented the presence of three rickettsia symbionts that appear to be important for the homeostasis of the ticks. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The possibility of transmission of more than one pathogen from a single tick bite is an important clinical consideration that needs to be made when evaluating tick-borne illness as some of these organisms are not treated with the same antibiotics. The role of co-infections in the pathogenesis of these infections in patients needs to be evaluated in terms of disease severity. Likewise, there needs to be awareness of newly introduced pathogens. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: All of the pathogens transmitted by the Ixodes tick constitute a microbiome with relationships and effects with each other and their vectors that are still largely unknown. As we decipher potential effects, there is the possibility for discovery of inhibitory molecules that in general or selective terms can be used for control and treatment. In the clinical setting, the future avenues of research are obvious. Are we treating one or more simultaneous infections?   Ecologically, the factors that have helped achieve the northward expansion of the lone star tick need to be understood.

This work done in collaboration with Dr. Rafal Tokarz, and senior author Dr Sanchez-Vicente . 

No disclosures


Santiago Sanchez-Vicente, Teresa Tagliafierro, James L. Coleman, Jorge L. Benach, Rafal TokarzPolymicrobial Nature of Tick-Borne Diseases. mBio, 2019; 10 (5) DOI: 10.1128/mBio.02055-19 

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Last Modified : Sep 18, 2019 @ 5:08 pm




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