Pathogen-carrying ticks can use electromagnetic radiation of the type given off by mobile phones to track down human victims, according to a new study.
A recent Polish-Slovak study has shown that ticks, often carrying dangerous pathogens, are attracted by electromagnetic radiation (EMF) at the same frequency as that emitted from smartphones.
The discovery that ticks are attracted to mobile phone is worrying for Brits after a dangerous tick-borne disease that affects the brain was discovered in the UK last year for the first time.
Public Health England (PHE) confirmed the presence of the tick-borne encephalitis virus in Thetford Forest and on the Hampshire-Dorset border.
For many people, the disease causes mild flu like symptoms, but it can affect the brain and in some cases prove fatal.
According to the new report by the University of Life Sciences in Poznan in the Polish city of Poznan, ticks are attracted by EMF at a frequency of 900 MHz.
The Polish-Slovak team explained that EMF is becoming more common in our environment. Sources include TV, radio and smartphones, which may be responsible for expanding the range of ticks.
Ticks which are increasing in numbers are also known to transmit other diseases to humans including Lyme disease, an infectious disease caused by the Borrelia bacterium.
Dr Nick Phin of PHE who revealed tick numbers are increasing in the UK said they wanted people to be aware of the risks and to take precautions.
And according to the new research by Slovak and Polish scientists, these precautions should include switching off mobile phones as EMF of around 900 MHz, which is the standard for mobile phones, has been found to attract the parasites in the laboratory.
The cross-border cooperation under Martyna Fratczak of the University of Life Sciences in Poznan and Dr Viktoria Majlathova from the Institute of Parasitology of the Slovak Academy of Science among others involved laboratory tests on 800 meadow ticks (Dermacentor reticulatus).
The researchers were interested in ticks` response of to radiation and used two different measures to reflect firstly mobile phones and secondly mobile phone masts.
They found that the ticks clearly moved towards electromagnetic fields in the 900 MHz which was the standard for mobile phones, but on the other hand they moved away from 5000 MHz which is the type broadcast from mobile phone masts.
Dr Majlathova said the text response to electromagnetic radiation indicated they had learned that this was another way they could identify potential victims.
She said: “They react to carbon dioxide in our breath, temperature and other chemical stimuli from the hosts to close their life cycle. The effectiveness of finding a host to drink blood is a question of life and death for a tick.
“Electromagnetic fields can be used as a source of information about an approaching host, because living organisms also generate this type of field.”
She said the next stage would be to see if there was the same reaction with mobile phones in the world.
The study has been published in the medical journal Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases.
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