COLUMBIA, Mo. — A professor at the University of Missouri has received nearly half a million dollars in federal grant money to develop new ways to combat tick-borne disease affecting cattle.

The Columbia Missourian reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has granted Roger Stich $460,000 for his research of ticks and tick-borne pathogens.

Stich and his team are working on developing a sustainable method to root out anaplasmosis, which is an infectious blood disease in cattle spread through bacteria transmitted by ticks.

Stich said he’s trying to replace the current method used to control the disease, which uses pesticides and antibiotics that are believed to harm the environment.

Because ticks are also becoming resistant to those chemicals, “these methods aren’t sustainable,” Stich said.

Missouri has seen an increase in tick-borne illnesses over the past several years. Stich estimated ticks affect more than 80 percent of beef cattle, and the disease causes fever, weight loss and severe anemia by infecting red blood cells. It’s transmitted by germs passed by tick bites and saliva and can be potentially fatal.

“Ticks are important pests, but their main importance is in the transmission of germs that can cause life-threatening diseases,” Stich said.

He and his team plan to use extracts from tick tissues to create immunizations that will serve as a more efficient and environmentally sound means of fighting the disease.

“By targeting tick molecules, this work is expected to help develop sustainable approaches to combating the disease,” Stich said.

He also said that the disease drains “hundreds of millions of dollars in losses each year” with the current method.

Stich will work alongside an international research team, including Sathaporn Jittapalapong, dean of veterinary technology at Kasetsart University in Thailand.

Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune,