Updates from the first year of the NorthTick project

15 December 2020 - Published by Per-Erik Lindgren

Many of us working in NorthTick are also involved in the management of the Coronavirus pandemic as healthcare providers, laboratory professionals or infectious disease specialist etc. Therefore we have been forced to prioritize situations in our organizations with short notice, which have affected some of the activities in the project. Physical meetings have been substituted by virtual meetings. Because of the covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, the planned meetup in Antwerpen in November could not take place. It was substituted by a virtual meeting. But despite the constraints of social distancing and the inability to see each other face to face for several months, our teams have in other ways been fruitfully working together. Here are some updates from the first year of the NorthTicks Project.

Risk assessment and prevention of tick-borne diseases (work package 3):

A Citizen Science project involving members of the public collecting data on ticks in their gardens was launched in Flanders, Belgium, in August 2020. In preparation to this launch, a questionnaire was initiated to evaluate the public’s knowledge of ticks and tick-borne diseases. More than 1800 people responded.

Though it is commonly thought by the general public that people only risk being bitten by a tick in woodland and rural areas, there are “Ticks in the City” in the recreational municipal areas of urban regions in the North Sea Region. To understand the risks of “Ticks in the City”, we have gathered information about tick abundance and tick-borne disease prevalence at multiple recreational sites in several cities across the North Sea Region.

Microbial diagnostics of tick-borne diseases (work package 4): 

Sweden and the Netherlands have managed to set up an antibody test to detect human infection with the new variant of Borrelia named Borrelia miyamotoi, which is not picked up by the commercially available Borrelia antibody tests. This will enable the us to determine how common it is to have been exposed to this new Borrelia variant. 

Management of tick-borne diseases (work package 5):

Work on a joint recommendation for the assessment/follow-up of persons with long-term ailments after suspected tick-borne diseases in the North Sea Region is progressing well. A writing group is currently working on the first draft for the recommendation.

In collaboration with students from the University og Agder (Norway) we have made a  prototype (image recognition technology) for diagnosing tick-borne rashes. Preparation for testing with user groups will start shortly.