The saliva from ticks could be used to treat a dangerous kind of heart disease that can cause sudden death in young people, scientists say. Proteins in the saliva were found to be excellent at stopping inflammation of the heart, which can cause myocarditis and lead to heart failure. Oxford University researchers say ticks are a “gold mine” for new drugs. And there is potential they could be used to treat other diseases, such as stroke and arthritis, they said. But all the research has so far been done in the lab, so it is likely to be many years before the drugs are used on humans. Ticks are experts at biting without being noticed.  This means ticks can feed on animals and humans for eight to 10 days without there being any pain or inflammation. Writing in Scientific Reports, scientists say this is a result of proteins in the saliva preventing inflammation by neutralising chemicals called chemokines in the host. This is also important in people with myocarditis, a condition where chemokines are released in the heart and cause inflammation to the heart muscle. The problem is difficult to spot and can lead to dilated cardiomyopathy and heart failure in a third of people, with some then needing a heart transplant. The researchers have now identified new proteins in tick saliva that appear to block the effect of particular chemokines that cause heart problems. Prof Shoumo Bhattacharya, BHF professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Oxford, who led the research, said: “Myocarditis is a devastating disease, for which there are currently very few treatments.

 

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