Updates from the NorthTick project

07 December 2022 - Published by Per-Erik Lindgren

During this reporting period three citizen science projects were in full operation.  The “Teek a break / Ticks in the Garden” project continued to investigate tick abundance in residential gardens in Belgium and when these sampled ticks have been analysed for tick-pathogen content will reveal the risks posed by ticks in a typical residential garden in the North Sea Region.  In Denmark, the citizen science project Flaatinfo.dk, attended the largest jamboree scout camp (40,000 scouts) event in the Nordic countries where scouts were informed of tick health risks and shown how to collect ticks and encouraged to involve their parents. Also during this reporting period a new citizen science project was launched by Sørlandet hospital in Norway. On the website flattkart.no, Norwegian citizens (or tourists) can report ticks observations on themselves, on their pets (dog/cat) or on game and whether the ticks had bitten or just there prior to biting. Data collected will provide information about the geographical distribution of ticks in Norway and seasonal variations. Since the site was launched in June 2022, over 10 000! observations have been registrered so far. Engaging large numbers of the general public through citizens science projects is usefull in many ways. It both informs the public of the risks of ticks and tick-borne diseases and also helps researchers collect data on a scale not possible by small team of researchers.The risks of ticks and the disease they transmit are generally thought of in the context of rural countryside/woodlands. Our “Ticks in the City” activities found plenty of ticks in urban recreational areas and these ticks contained disease causing organisms, including those that cause Lyme disease.

The evaluation and implementation of new or improved analyses to facilitate the diagnostics of tick borne diseases in ongoing. For example, in the Netherlands  they have continued to analysing genetic data from the sequences of the genomes of Borrelia miyamotoi isolated from ticks and patients. Also a new cause of tick-borne disease in Sweden, the bacterium Spiroplasma ixodetis, was discovered and described. The bacterium can cause febrible illness, and resembles anaplasmosis, another tick-borne disease.

We are happy to announce that he final draft of the consensus document: “Tick-borne diseases in the North Sea Region - a comprehensive overview and consensus of diagnostic, treatment and management strategies”is finished. The document gives a comprehensive overview of the diagnostics, treatment and management of tick-borne diseases, based on validated accumulated knowledge and common practices in the North Sea Region. This will help health care providers in the North Sea Region provide the best possible information and care for patients with, or with suspected tick-borne diseases. A survey among infectious disease specialists in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, has investigated the management of Lyme neuroborreliosis, the choice of antibiotic therapy and route of administration (oral or intravenous), to monitor adherence to guidelines. It is also worth mentioning that a review has concluded that persistent Borrelia infection after antibiotic treatment was a rare occurrence in animal models. This underscores the need for further research into other pathophysiological mechanisms of post-treatment Lyme disease symptoms.