Believe it or not, but the key to treating heart inflammation, or myocarditis, which cause sudden cardiac death in young adults and occurs as a result of an infection caused by common viruses, is tick saliva, according to a recent study conducted by Oxford University.
Saliva from ticks could be a potential lifesaver, researchers determined after it was shown to block the harmful chemicals associated with the life-threatening condition. A protein within tick saliva that can bind to and neutralize chemokines, which are released in the heart during myocarditis causing inflammation, was identified.
The conclusion was that by neutralizing the chemicals, tick saliva could potentially prevent chronic inflammatory disease, which kills about 30 percent of patients. In severe cases a heart transplant is necessary.
“Myocarditis is a devastating disease, for which there are currently very few treatments,” Professor Shoumo Bhattacharya, the study’s lead author and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Oxford, says.
“With this latest research, we hope to be able to take inspiration from the tick’s anti-inflammatory strategy and design a life-saving therapy for this dangerous heart condition,” he adds. “We may also be able to use the same drugs to treat other diseases where inflammation plays a big part, such as heart attack, stroke, pancreatitis, and arthritis.”
Tick saliva contains around 1,500 to 3,000 proteins depending on the species. Researchers have developed a “bug to drug” formula where hundreds of tick saliva proteins are made into yeast cells, in order to identify the tick saliva proteins that have anti-inflammatory properties.
These proteins are called evasins. They help ticks to feed for eight to 10 days without being noticed by the host animal. The evasins are injected into the host where they block the host’s chemokines and prevent the painful inflammation which would normally alert the host to the tick’s presence.