There were what turned out to be — on the resident, her sheep, and in the paddock — hundreds of them.
These ticks were of a sort that had never been seen in the US before. They were Haemaphysalis longicornis, longhorned or bush ticks from East Asia. In Asia and Australia, they've appeared in such numbers that they've killed cattle by draining them of their blood, exsanguinating them. And they've been known to carry a potentially deadly virus that can cause severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS), which first emerged in China in 2009 and has been spreading rapidly since then.
Efforts to wipe these ticks out in New Jersey have been failing, and there are now thousands of them there, according to a local news report by CBS New York.
And while the first ticks tested back in November didn't show signs of SFTS or Lyme disease, which they may be able to transmit as well, experts are still concerned that some of the ticks could be carrying pathogens. The recently collected specimens are being tested now.
"It has the potential [to carry SFTS]," microbiologist James Occi told CBS NY. "That’s why we're worried."
The fact that the ticks survived both the mid-Atlantic winter and eradication attempts is extremely bad news.
No one knows where the ticks came from in the first place. The Hunterdon resident's 12-year-old Icelandic sheep "had no history of travel outside the country," researchers wrote in a report about the infestation.
They treated the sheep several times and tried to eliminate the pests from the paddock. They didn't find any ticks there by mid-November of 2017, but temperatures had dropped below freezing by then, which meant the creatures had possibly retreated underground.
That turned out to be the case. As CBS reported, lab tests have also shown that a number of the ticks survived carbon dioxide traps as well, making them resilient little creatures.
As an invasive species, these ticks have a bad reputation.
The species can be parthenogenetic, meaning the ticks can reproduce asexually, essentially cloning themselves (this study provides more details on the unique reproductive processes of these particular ticks).
Australia and New Zealand have had serious problems with this tick, which is capable of intense infestations and appearing in very large numbers.
And aside from SFTS and potentially Lyme disease, these ticks are also known to carry diseases like Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Borrelia, and a form of spotted fever, according to the original report about the infestation.
"[W]e advocate continued vigilance because even if this species is not already established in the United States, suitable hosts and habitats are common and widespread here," that report's authors wrote.
And the fact that these ticks are still around could mean that tick season in New Jersey and the Northeast might be even worse than normal this summer and for years to come.
EryDex is a slow-release system, he says, and research has found that it ''prevents the typical steroid side effects." These can include thinning of bones, high blood sugar, cataracts, and high blood pressure.
Research has shown the treatment can delay symptoms and the course of the disease. In one study, 18 patients given monthly infusions for 6 months had a better score on a commonly used scale to assess motor skills and many other aspects of daily living. The company is conducting its final study before seeking FDA approval. Results of that study are expected by the second half of 2019.
The treatment has been granted orphan drug status by the FDA. That means the drug is designed to treat rare diseases or is unlikely to ever be profitable to a drug manufacturer. Besides ataxia telangiectasia, the company is looking at other diseases, including cancer, their system could treat.
Rubius Therapeutics in Cambridge, MA, is also studying superblood treatment for rare diseases, cancers, and immune system disorders. It has raised more than 0 million in financing for research.
Advantages of Superblood, How It Compares With Other Therapies
The less-toxic superblood approach also allows the drugs to target tumors more directly, experts say. The drugs also stay in the body longer, so superblood may be more effective in the long term.
Experts say the new technology builds on another treatment advance known as CAR T-cell therapy. CAR T-cell therapy draws on the power of the body's T cells, known as the workhorses of the immune system, due to their ability to find and kill diseased cells.
In the CAR T process, blood is drawn from a patient, T cells are separated and genetically engineered to boost their tumor-fighting ability, then returned to the patient through an IV.
Compared to CAR T, superblood has more advantages, experts say. The superblood treatment is easier to use, can be made more quickly, and is long lasting.