2019, Déruaz et al. find that ticks might prefer to take on immune cells one at a time rather than brave the whole lot at once.
Some worms and viruses fend off immune cells by neutralizing the chemokines that attract them. These species make one chemokine-blocking protein that covers all the bases. But ticks don't use this one-for-all strategy, the authors now find. Instead, they made at least three single-chemokine blockers, which probably prevent host immune cells from swarming into the bite site and clogging up the ticks' food pipeline. These anti-chemokines, called evasins, each had a unique shape that might contribute to their selectivity.
Ticks might have evolved this selectivity to counter the host's step-wise immune response to the Lyme disease parasite they carry. In parasite-infected hosts, neutrophils usually arrive first to the bite site, followed by eosinophils and monocytes, and finally other immune cells. Tick saliva has different anti-chemokine activity at different times during feeding, suggesting that having several evasins might somehow better counter this staggered cell influx. Viruses, on the other hand, do not have the luxury of combating one cell type at a time and might therefore depend on a single multi-purpose protein.