Researchers have identified a new disease carried by a tick in Inner Mongolia. In the US alone, at least 16 diseases have been identified that ticks can pass on to humans, NPR reports.
The discovery, disclosed in a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, means that we don’t really know how many diseases ticks carry.
“We continue to discover new viruses,” says a Mayo Clinic researcher who was not involved in the study.
The Inner Mongolia patient, a 42-year-old woman with a history of tick bites, came to a hospital with a fever and headaches. Researchers ruled out tick-borne diseases usually found in the area, then used genome sequencing to isolate the disease-causing agent, which they named for the woman’s hometown: Alongshan virus, or ALSV.
Tests found 86 more people in the region with ALSV; all recovered after treatment with an antiviral and antibiotic.
The disease can be fatal if left untreated. Lyme disease is another tick-borne problem: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites estimates that as many as 300,000 people contract it each year in the US.