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Vector Immunity and Evolutionary Ecology: The Harmonious Dissonance

How evolution has shaped vector immunity, calling for immunologists and evolutionary ecologists to work together to tackle some of these emerging diseases

99-million-year-old tick in amber

Tick Immunity researchers published a comprehensive piece discussing the evolutionary forces that have shaped vector immunity in arthropods like ticks. Researchers stress the integrated and interconnected nature of the principles of evolutionary ecology and molecular signaling to ensure a more holistic approach to arthropod vector immunology. Emphasis is placed on resistance, pathogenicity, and tolerance to infection, with the clear recommendation that molecular immunologists and evolutionary ecologists work together to develop novel scientific paradigms in this imperative and growing public health field.

Recent scientific breakthroughs have significantly expanded the understanding of arthropod vector immunity, with laboratory work demonstrating how the immune system provides resistance to infection, and what role innate defenses play in protecting against a microbial attack. Less understood, however, is the effect of biotic and abiotic factors on microbial-vector interactions and the impact of the immune system on arthropod populations in nature. Furthermore, the influence of genetic plasticity on immune response against vector-borne pathogens remains largely unknown.

Researchers from Tick Immunity including Dr. Utpal Pal of the University of Maryland, Dr. Joao Pedra of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Dr. Erol Fikrig of Yale University present findings and recommendations in the area of vector immunology as it relates to evolutionary ecology. Major highlights include how of the life cycle of microbes in the vector dictates pathogencity, the concept of "trained immunity" against previously encountered pathogens or microbes in mammals and athropods, how tolerance to infections can be developed based on the energy required to mount an immune response, and how all of this affects the study of vector-borne illnesses.

The paper, Vector Immunity and Evolutionary Ecology: The Harmonious Dissonance, is published in Trends in Immunology.

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