An invasive tick species, the Asian longhorned tick, was identified for a third time by the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in Aug. 2023. The tick, sent in for testing from Fairfield, Connecticut, was not carrying any pathogens.
This species was identified by CVMDL twice before, in June 2020 and Aug. 2022. The species was first identified in the U.S. in New Jersey in 2017. According to a USDA report from Aug. 2018, after it was first identified, animal health officials reexamined past tick samples and determined that a sample of Asian longhorned tick had been misidentified in West Virginia in 2010, and had been present in the U.S. since at least then.
The tick was tested for the eight pathogens the lab is able to test for. According to Maureen Sims, a lab technician at CVMDL, “We do not know what pathogens this tick is capable of transmitting [in the United States].” All pathogen tests came back negative.
No Asian longhorned ticks identified in the U.S. have carried any pathogens that can be transferred to humans. The ticks are native to East Asia and some Pacific islands, where they have been found to carry and transmit diseases to both livestock and humans. Zeinab Helal, another lab technician with CVMDL, said more investigation and study must be done to discover what pathogens the ticks can carry.
Although the species has not been identified in substantial quantities in the U.S., infestations are still a big concern. Since female Asian longhorned ticks are able to reproduce asexually, this means that a single tick’s presence in a location can still lead to an outbreak.
Sims and Helal said that until more testing has been done to figure out the dangers of the species in the U.S., students should not be concerned. However, they should maintain the same level of awareness as they would for any other tick in Connecticut. They advise any UConn students or Connecticut residents to send any ticks they find on themselves to CVMDL so that more testing can be done on Asian longhorned ticks and other tick species.
Besides tick testing, CVMDL uses a variety of methods and disciplines to properly diagnose and test for diseases in animals, recently assisting with the avian influenza outbreak in 2023. They serve clients ranging from private veterinarians to state and federal health officials. They also train students at CVMDL. There are approximately 30 students in the laboratory as a whole, and between 12 and 15 students per semester are trained to work in the Diagnostic Testing Section. More information for tick testing, other services and student opportunities can be found on CVMDL’s website.