Scientist Discovers Possible New Tick Species in His Nose

Posted on October 14, 2013

Tony Goldberg and Alex Tumukunde in Kibale National Park


A scientist discovered a tick that may be new to science in his nose. Tony Goldberg is professor of pathobiological sciences at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine and associate director for research in the UW-Madison Global Health Institute. He is pictured above with student Alex Tumukunde in Kibale National Park in Uganda. Goldberg takes frequent trips to the park where he studies infectious diseases. A tick came back with him by hiding inside his nose on one of his trips.

Goldberg says, "When you first realize you have a tick up your nose, it takes a lot of willpower not to claw your face off."

Goldberg removed the nose tick and had its DNA analyzed. It was determined that the tick's DNA was not found in any database, so it is either a new species of tick or a tick that is known but its DNA has never been sequenced.

Goldberg and Richard Wrangham, a Harvard University chimp expert, did additional research on chimps and ticks and found one of the ticks in the nose of a baby chimp. Goldberg believes the ticks are of the genus Amblyomma and thinks it could be a new vector for transferring disease. He also thinks these ticks may hide inside noses to avoid being "groomed off" by chimps.

Goldberg says, "Amblyomma are known disease carriers, so this could be an underappreciated, indirect, and somewhat weird way in which people and chimps share pathogens."

The research was published here in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Photo: James Jones/UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine