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Giant 3-centimeter hunter tick discovered in Sweden

Staff Writer |
The giant Hyalomma tick, which can become three centimeters long and can bite humans and transmit serious pathogens, has for the first time been spotted in Sweden, Swedish Radio reported.

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The Hyalomma is a genus of hard-bodied ticks that is common in Asia, Europe, and North Africa and can also be found in Southern Africa. According to researcher Giulio Grandi it has been found to carry a hemorrhagic fever virus.

"They are very quick and they are hunters so they do not wait for their prey but actively look for a host to attack. When they are filled up with blood they can grow to become two or three centimeters long. They are giant ticks," Grandi told Swedish Radio.

Grandi works at Sweden's National Veterinary Institute, which is running a research project over several years in order to investigate how infectious diseases are affected by the changing climate. The institute asked members of the public to send in both living and dead ticks and it has received around 2,000 specimens so far.

During the month of August alone, three full-grown Hyalomma ticks were sent in to the Institute from Landskrona in southern Sweden, Nykoping in the southeast, and Koppom in the southwest. The giant tick has never before been spotted in Sweden and one theory is that the ones found this month may have made it over via migratory birds.

Ann Albihn, who is an associate professor at the National Veterinary Institute and a professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, said there have been other surprising findings during the research project. For instance, ticks of different kinds have been sent in from 90 percent of all municipalities within the northern region of Norrland.

"There are strong indications that there are more ticks in the far north and in Sweden's northern mountain region than previously believed," Albihn said.

Albihn added that the likelihood of being infected with hemorrhagic fever from the Hyalomma tick is very low, as is the likelihood that the giant tick will establish itself in Sweden in the short-term. However, depending on future changes in the climate, the Hyalomma tick may develop "a new trick" to handle the tougher Swedish climate, Albihn warned, suggesting it may for instance learn to winter indoors.

"The ones that manage to adapt are the ones that survive," said Albihn.

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