Tick saliva and its role in pathogen transmission.
Tick saliva is a complex mixture of peptidic and non-peptidic molecules that aid engorgement. The composition of tick saliva changes as feeding progresses and the tick counters the dynamic host response. Ixodid ticks such as Ixodes ricinus, the most important tick species in Europe, transmit numerous pathogens that cause debilitating diseases, e.g. Lyme borreliosis and tick-borne encephalitis. Tick-borne pathogens are transmitted in tick saliva during blood feeding; however, saliva is not simply a medium enabling pathogen transfer. Instead, tick-borne pathogens exploit saliva-induced modulation of host responses to promote their transmission and infection, so-called saliva-assisted transmission (SAT). Characterization of the saliva factors that facilitate SAT is an active area of current research. Besides providing new insights into how tick-borne pathogens survive in nature, the research is opening new avenues for vaccine development.