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Could Tick Saliva Save You From Heart Disease?

Could the proteins in tick saliva be your answer to preventing heart disease? We have the most recent information.

              
By Markham Heid, Prevention
     
Ticks are a hot topic this summer. As their range in the U.S. has expanded, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so have reported cases of the diseases they carry—Lyme first and foremost, but others as well.

One of the reasons ticks are so persnickety to deal with has to do with their saliva, which contains proteins and enzymes that hide their bites from detection. “Common ticks secrete multiple proteins that inhibit the local inflammatory response when they attach to a human being,” explains George Welch, MD, a cardiologist with Manhattan Cardiology and a clinical instructor of medicine at New York University.
By blocking that local skin response, ticks don’t cause the usual itching, pain, or irritation you’d get from a typical bug bite. (Here are four things you should do if you find a tick—plus, what not to do if you get Lyme disease.)

[post_ads]That’s bad news when it comes to your risk for tick-borne illnesses. Many of those ailments, including Lyme, take time to work their way from the tick’s gut up to its mouth and into your body. That’s why, if you find a tick and remove it promptly, your risks for Lyme are minimized.

(Get need-to-know health news, weight loss tips, and more delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for one of Prevention’s FREE newsletters!)

The irony, though, is the same inflammation-blocking saliva proteins that prevent you from detecting a disease-carrying tick may one day save your life, according to a new study in the journal Scientific Reports.

Here’s The Scoop:
Myocarditis is a dangerous form of heart inflammation that can be difficult to detect.

“Nearly 30% of myocarditis patients develop severe heart muscle damage that can lead to heart failure and, on occasion, sudden death,” Dr. Welch says. Young people are also at risk for the deadly condition, he adds. (Here are seven weird signs you could have heart problems down the road.)


In a just-published study, the Oxford team found that a family of proteins within tick saliva can “neutralize” chemokines—chemicals released in the hearts of myocarditis patients that cause inflammation.

“We think [these saliva proteins] could be used to treat chemokine-mediated inflammation,” says study coauthor Shoumo Bhattacharya, MD, the British Heart Foundation’s chair of cardiovascular medicine and a professor of medicine at Oxford.

Dr. Bhattacharya says this treatment would likely take the form of a skin injection made with purified, lab-cultured tick proteins.

Myocarditis sufferers may not be the only patients who benefit. The tick proteins could one day be used to treat other inflammation-related conditions like arthritis, colitis, multiple sclerosis and stroke, Dr. Bhattacharya explains.


“Oral delivery” of the treatment—a pill containing “nanoparticles” composed of the tick proteins—is also a possibility, he says.
[post_ads_2]
Is All This Legit?
It’s legitimately promising . . . but effectiveness is likely a ways off.
      
“It’s a preliminary study and a lot of work needs to be done,” Dr. Welch says. “Prior studies with other [inflammation-blocking] medicines such as steroids have shown no benefits.”
             
He says the finding that these tick proteins specifically target the chemokines that trigger inflammation in the hearts of myocarditis sufferers should inspire hope. And there’s no question we are “desperately” in need of a new treatment for this life-threatening condition, he says. (These are the four numbers you need to know for your heart health, according the American Heart Association.)
         
But the Oxford study only provides a new and exciting avenue for future research. It’s not an announcement that a cure for myocarditis and other inflammation-related conditions is around the corner.
   
Read more from Prevention:

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Health Magazine: Could Tick Saliva Save You From Heart Disease?
Could Tick Saliva Save You From Heart Disease?
Could the proteins in tick saliva be your answer to preventing heart disease? We have the most recent information.
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