USA College of Medicine scientists have been studying fleas – specifically the microscopic salivary glands of cat fleas – as evidence suggests several diseases are transmitted through the parasite’s infected spit.
By Casandra Andrews
With a goal of stopping the spread of diseases that infect pets and humans, scientists at the USA College of Medicine have been studying fleas – specifically the microscopic salivary glands of cat fleas – as evidence suggests several diseases are transmitted through the parasite’s infected spit.
Supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health, research from USA recently was published in the peer-reviewed journal Pathogens and Disease. The July 2021 issue includes a research paper by Monika Danchenko, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, titled “Dynamic Gene Expression in Salivary Glands of the Cat Flea during Rickettsia felis Infection.”
Fleas are small parasites of birds and mammals whose blood-feeding can transmit a variety of serious pathogens causing diseases including bubonic plague, flea-borne rickettsioses (typhus and spotted fever) and cat scratch disease.
Work on the project began in 2018 and was interrupted – at least briefly – by the COVID-19 global health pandemic. Two others contributed to the work: Kevin Macaluso. Ph. D., professor and chair of microbiology and immunology, and graduate researcher Hanna Laukaitis.
“We hope a better understanding of what cat fleas require to feed and transmit pathogens will give physicians, veterinarians and public health officials the information needed to prevent new outbreaks of a number of diseases,” Danchenko said, “and to provide more effective treatment for people and pets.”
The article is timely as a rise of typhus cases have been reported in recent years in states including California and Texas. Those cases have been attributed to fleas associated with increasing populations of rodents and opossums, and requires basic science efforts to combat a serious risk to human health.
Read the full article here.