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Prevention measures required: More cases of illness due to ticks
The most common tick-borne disease in Germany is Lyme disease, much less often virus-related early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE). The little bloodsuckers can transmit even more dangerous infectious diseases to humans. According to experts, the number of illnesses due to tick bites has increased.
As the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg writes in a current communication, tick-borne infectious agents are increasingly threatening human and animal health in Germany. In recent years, unknown but clinically relevant pathogens have been discovered in Germany that are transmitted by domestic ticks.
Prevention measures urgently needed
“As a result, measures to prevent tick-borne infectious agents are urgently needed. Workers who are particularly at risk, e.g. Special attention must be paid to forest workers so that the health risk for this group can be adequately recorded and assessed, ”says Priv.-Doz. Dr. med. Antonios Katsounas, head of the Infectious Diseases section at Magdeburg University Hospital and inspirer of the E.Ze.SA project (pathogen spectrum of ticks in Saxony-Anhalt).
New pathogens identified
"Probably the best-known examples of tick-borne pathogens in Germany are the TBE viruses that can trigger vaccine-preventable early summer meningoencephalitis and Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, the cause of Lyme disease," explains the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM ) on his website.
However, half a dozen new tick-borne pathogens have been identified in the past two decades, including new species of Borrelia and Rickettsia. The hyalom ticks found in some regions of Germany since 2017 can transmit a form of tick-spot fever, among other things. A few months ago, scientists reported on such a transmission in Germany for the first time.
In addition, these ticks can transmit the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV), for which there is neither adequate therapy nor vaccination. The CCHFV has already been broadcast in Spain, as demonstrated by Prof. Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, Head of the Arbovirology Department at the BNITM in Hamburg, in a joint publication in the renowned specialist magazine "New England Journal of Medicine".
Future danger also in Germany
The occurrence of the CCHFV cannot be ruled out in Germany in the future.
"So far we have no evidence that the CCHFV is transmitted by ticks in Saxony-Anhalt. But this is an important question that is being investigated as part of the E.Ze.SA project, ”explains Prof. Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit.
As stated in the communication, not only can known pathogens be detected using the latest examination methods, but also new pathogens can be identified. According to the information, the E.Ze.SA project is characterized by the fact that it focuses on ticks that are only collected from humans.
Record number of illnesses
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States reported a record number of tick-borne cases in 2017.
In Germany, the spread of the tick-borne TBE virus has been shown in recent years using valid data. While it has been established in southern Germany for a long time, it has now also been proven in regions in Thuringia and Saxony, most recently in the Saxon-Switzerland-Eastern Ore Mountains district.
"Not all cases are recorded because the symptoms are often non-specific and not very pronounced," explains Priv.-Doz. Antonios Katsounas.
As the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) explains on its portal "infektionsschutz.de", the majority of those infected (approx. 70 to 95 percent) remain symptom-free or there is no second phase of illness.
Signs of a TBE disease typically appear in two phases:
- First of all, flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache and body aches and a general feeling of illness appear. The tick bite is often forgotten at this point and the symptoms are misinterpreted as a cold. For most of those affected, the disease is now over.
- Some of the sufferers develop inflammation of the meninges and the brain after about a week (meningoencephalitis). Inflammation of the spinal cord can also occur. Symptoms include renewed fever, nausea, vomiting and nervous system failures. Severe courses can include paralysis of the arms and legs, swallowing and speech disorders, respiratory paralysis and severe drowsiness.
Ticks benefit from climate change
It is not only ticks that can be transmitted by ticks benefit from climate change, but also the animals themselves. "Current data show that the riparian tick, which can probably transmit the TBE virus, has spread in Germany in recent years," said Prof. Gernot Geginat , Deputy Head of the Institute for Medical Microbiology and Hospital Hygiene at the University Medical Center Magdeburg.
“Its main areas of distribution are the Upper Rhine, Middle Elbe and the greater Berlin area. In contrast to the woodbuck, the riparian tick has an extended activity period from early spring to late autumn. This new type of tick could significantly increase the cumulative risk of a tick bite, ”explains the expert.
The institute acts as a central collection point for all ticks and provides the tick kits for the participants, which contain a tick card for the gentle removal of the ticks and suitable transport tubes. The data obtained as part of the E.Ze.SA project through this monitoring measure will make it possible to establish protective measures in the future, especially for risk groups such as foresters and hunters. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.