MONGOLIA — Researchers say the discovery of a new disease carried by ticks in Inner Mongolia means it’s impossible to say at present how many diseases ticks can pass along to humans.
In the U.S. alone, at least 16 diseases have been identified that ticks can pass on to humans, NPR reports.
The recent disease discovery, disclosed in a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, means that scientists 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.