Science, Tech & Environment

A scientific discovery falls out of this epidemiologist's nose

nose tick head close.jpg

Credit: Gabriel L. Hamer
A close-up of the nose tick.

Imagine finding a tick up your nose — and being happy about it.

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Epidemiologist Tony Goldberg was working with primates in Kibale National Park in Uganda. But, when he returned to his lab at the University of Wisconsin, he began feeling some pain in his nose.

That's when Goldberg discovered a tick inside his right nostril. Definitely not something that's cause for celebration, usually.

"I made use of a mirror, a flashlight and some forceps to remove it," Goldberg said. "I was fortunate to grasp it firmly by the mouth parts and I got the tick in its entirety out of my nose, sparing the surrounding nose hairs."

But, being a man of science, after he removed the tick, Goldberg analyzed its DNA.

The nostril tick belonged to the genus Amblyomma. But it didn't match any known bugs in various databases.

That means it could be a tick that hasn't been genetically characterized yet — or a completely new species.

"We're still learning the pathways that diseases can use to move between wildlife and people. And this nose tick is a slightly amusing and particularly gross example of how diseases move in nature," Goldberg said.

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