The disease-carrying parasites' natural glue could also hold a key to healing us.
Bloodsucking parasites that can carry deadly diseases create their own cement to glue themselves to our bodies, a new study says.
Hard ticks—a family of 700 species that includes the Lyme-spreading deer tick—use pincer-like appendages and mouths to attach to a host's skin. But sometimes this grip isn't strong enough for the arachnid to hold on and feed while the host moves.
Sylvia Nürnberger and colleagues discovered hard ticks have an extra tool to glom onto their hosts' skin—a kind of glue made of proteins in their saliva. (See a map that shows Americans' risk of catching Lyme.)
"Not all species have it and not all species have it in the same amount," says Nürnberger, a researcher at the Department of Orthopaedics and Trauma Surgery at the Medical University of Vienna.
The cement discovery could actually benefit humans, she adds, as its properties could be repurposed into a medical adhesive.