K-State research team looks for ways to fight tick-borne diseases

Published: Nov. 7, 2020 at 5:38 PM CST
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - A research team from Kansas State University is searching for patented ways to fight tick-borne diseases.

Kansas State University says research is making progress on keeping both humans and animals safe from tick-borne diseases. It said Roman Ganta, professor and director of the Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Diseases at the College of Veterinary Medicine, and his team of researchers got two patents on technology to develop vaccine candidates against Ehrlichia and Anaplasma infections which are tick-borne diseases.

According to K-State, Ehrlichia species pathogens transmitted by ticks can lead to ehrlichiosis, which is the general name for illness caused by the bacteria. It said human monocytic ehrlichiosis, which is caused by E. chaffeensis, can lead to life-threatening illness and has been associated with significant morbidity, especially in children, the elderly and the immunocompromised.

K-State said before the team’s efforts, the only option for treatment of the infections and other related pathogens of Ehrlichia and Anaplasma in humans and dogs was antibiotics. It said this showed a need for preventative vaccines.

“In our prior studies, we created several mutations in the tick-borne rickettsial pathogen, E. chaffeensis, which is responsible for causing ehrlichiosis disease in people and dogs,” Ganta said. “Our team was the first to develop methods to generate gene mutations in obligate rickettsial bacteria belonging to the Ehrlichia species.”

According to K-State, gene mutations cause the inactivation of proteins in bacteria, which can make it incapable of causing disease. It said this knowledge led to the creation of the vaccines since mutated bacteria are ideal for inducing enough immunity to protect against infection.

“Because our mutagenesis and vaccine development methods are broadly applicable to other tick-borne pathogens causing diseases in dogs, cattle and humans, K-State filed the patents that cover our inventions for developing vaccine candidates against tick-borne infections of bacterial pathogens belonging to the Ehrlichia and Anaplasma species,” Ganta said.

K-State said the patent filings have helped Ganta find additional support from the National Institutes of Health to expand the research on vaccine development to several related pathogens impacting human and animal health.

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