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Emerging tick-borne pathogens in the Nordic countries: A clinical and laboratory follow-up study of high-risk tick-bitten individuals

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  • Lukas Frans Ocias
  • Peter Wilhelmsson
  • Johanna Sjöwall
  • Anna Jonsson Henningsson
  • Marika Nordberg
  • Charlotte Sværke Jørgensen
  • Karen Angeliki Krogfelt
  • Pia Forsberg
  • Per-Eric Lindgren
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Despite the presence of several microorganisms, other than Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (Bbsl) and TBE virus, in Ixodes ricinus ticks from the Nordic countries, data is lacking on their pathogenic potential in humans. In this study, we wanted to investigate the aetiology and clinical manifestations of tick-transmitted infections in individuals seeking medical care following a tick-bite. The sampling frame was participants of a large-scale, prospective, multi-centre, follow-up study of tick-bitten volunteers recruited in Sweden, Finland and Norway in the years 2007-2015. Participants who sought medical care during the three-month follow-up period and from whom blood samples were collected during this healthcare visit (n = 92) were tested, using PCR, for exposure to spotted fever group (SFG) Rickettsia spp., Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Babesia spp. Moreover, 86 of these individuals had two serum samples, collected three months apart, tested serologically for six tick-borne microorganisms. The selected organisms - Bbsl, SFG rickettsiae, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, TBE virus, Babesia microti and Bartonella henselae - have all been detected in field-collected ticks from the Nordic countries. Medical records were reviewed and questionnaires were completed to determine clinical manifestations. We found Lyme borreliosis to be the most common tick-transmitted infection as seen in 46 (54%) of the 86 participants with available medical records. Among the 86 participants with paired sera, serological or molecular evidence of recent exposure to other microorganisms than Bbsl could be demonstrated in eight (9%). Five participants (6%) exhibited serological evidence of recent concomitant exposure to more than one tick-borne microorganism. Clinical presentations were mild with one exception (TBE). In conclusion, our data suggest a low risk of infection with tick-borne microorganisms, other than Bbsl, in immunocompetent tick-bitten persons from the examined regions, a low occurrence of co-infection and mostly mild or no overt clinical signs of infection in immunocompetent persons exposed to the studied agents.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTicks and Tick-borne Diseases
Volume11
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)101303
ISSN1877-959X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

ID: 59370551