By Laura Mushrush
Potentially lethal, easily spreadable and economically devastating, anaplasmosis can pack a powerful punch to beef producers who are not up to speed on the blood-infesting organism. The parasite itself is called Anaplasma marginale, and it operates by sinking its teeth into red blood cells and morphing into a peppercorn figure once inside. Once spotted by the immune system, the red blood cell is labeled an antigen and kicked to the curb, leaving the victim extremely anemic.
When it comes to the transmission of anaplasmosis, there are two main offenders, says University of Tennessee Extension veterinarian Lew Strickland.
First up is the ixodid species tick, aka “the American dog tick,” aka “the wood tick.” These vectors spread anaplasmosis through blood transmission as pests and make their way from cow to cow to cow.
“Because of the high transmission rate from ticks, anaplasmosis is going to be more prevalent during tick season — depending on your location, hitting in the summer and carrying through the fall,” Strickland says. “Biting flies are also potential carriers of the disease.”
The second offender is referred to by Strickland as a two-legged tick, aka “humans.” Research has shown it takes less than 0.005 mLs of blood from an infected cow to transmit anaplasmosis to a non-infected cow. To put that in perspective, one drop converts into 0.05 mLs, making it unsurprising that research has also shown a 60 percent probability in transmission of anaplasmosis when a needle is shared on multiple animals.
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