£2.5m for Edinburgh University to tackle ticks

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Image caption,
Ticks can transmit number of severe and potentially deadly diseases to humans including Lyme disease

Scientists at Edinburgh University have been awarded £2.5m to tackle the growing health risk posed by ticks.

Campers and hikers have long known the misery ticks can cause.

Now scientists at the Roslin Institute aim to find new ways to prevent diseases transmitted by the tiny insect-like creatures.

The university will establish the Roslin Wellcome Trust Tick Cell Biobank with the funding from the Wellcome Trust.

It says the biobank will house the world's largest collection of tick cell lines, enabling scientists to carry out advanced research.

The scientists hope to understand how viruses and bacteria, which are transmitted by ticks and which cause a range of human diseases, can survive for long periods of time within ticks without damaging them.

In parts of the world, ticks can transmit a number of severe and potentially deadly diseases to humans and animals, including Lyme disease, tick-borne encephalitis and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.

In Britain, cases of Lyme disease are dramatically increasing each year.

In the rest of Europe, tick-borne encephalitis is now endemic in 27 countries, including Germany and Croatia.

Tick numbers are surging in Europe and scientists warn that changing climate patterns and increasing globalisation could enable them to spread into new areas.

The Tick Cell Biobank team and collaborators from seven other European countries have received further funding from the European Union to train a new generation of scientists specialising in ticks and their related diseases.

Project leader Professor John Fazakerley said: "Tick-transmitted infections are likely to be increasingly important in the future. Understanding these diseases and training scientists to undertake research on them is important for both human and animal heath".

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