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Ixodes ricinus ticks removed from humans in Northern Europe: seasonal pattern of infestation, attachment sites and duration of feeding
Linköping University, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Division of Microbiology and Molecular Medicine. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences.
Linköping University, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Division of Microbiology and Molecular Medicine. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences.
Linköping University, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Infectious Diseases. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences.
(The Åland Borrelia group, Mariehamn, Åland)
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2013 (English)In: Parasites & Vectors, ISSN 1756-3305, E-ISSN 1756-3305, Vol. 6, no 362Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

BACKGROUND:

The common tick Ixodes ricinus is the main vector in Europe of the tick-borne encephalitis virus and of several species of the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex, which are the etiological agents of Lyme borreliosis. The risk to contract bites of I. ricinus is dependent on many factors including the behaviour of both ticks and people. The tick's site of attachment on the human body and the duration of tick attachment may be of clinical importance. Data on I. ricinus ticks, which were found attached to the skin of people, were analysed regarding potentially stage-specific differences in location of attachment sites, duration of tick attachment (= feeding duration), seasonal and geographical distribution of tick infestation in relation to age and gender of the tick-infested hosts.

METHODS:

During 2008-2009, 1770 tick-bitten persons from Sweden and the Åland Islands removed 2110 I. ricinus ticks. Participants provided information about the date of tick detection and location on their body of each attached tick. Ticks were identified to species and developmental stage. The feeding duration of each nymph and adult female tick was microscopically estimated based on the scutal and the coxal index.

RESULTS:

In 2008, participants were tick-bitten from mid-May to mid-October and in 2009 from early April to early November. The infestation pattern of the nymphs was bimodal whereas that of the adult female ticks was unimodal with a peak in late summer. Tick attachment site on the human body was associated with stage of the tick and gender of the human host. Site of attachment seemed to influence the duration of tick feeding. Overall, 63% of nymphs and adult female ticks were detected and removed more than 24 hours after attachment. Older persons, compared to younger ones, and men, compared to women, removed "their" ticks after a longer period of tick attachment.

CONCLUSIONS:

The infestation behaviour of the different tick stages concerning where on the host's body the ticks generally will attach and when such ticks generally will be detected and removed in relation to host age and gender, should be of value for the development of prophylactic methods against tick infestation and to provide relevant advice to people on how to avoid or reduce the risk of tick infestation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
BioMed Central, 2013. Vol. 6, no 362
Keyword [en]
Ixodes ricinus; Tick infestation; Tick bite; Attachment site; Feeding behaviour; Feeding duration; Host-seeking behaviour; Seasonal activity; Sweden; Åland
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-103499DOI: 10.1186/1756-3305-6-362ISI: 000330064200001PubMedID: 24360096OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-103499DiVA: diva2:689440
Available from: 2014-01-20 Created: 2014-01-20 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. A STING from a Tick: Epidemiology, Ecology and Clinical Aspects of Lyme Borreliosis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A STING from a Tick: Epidemiology, Ecology and Clinical Aspects of Lyme Borreliosis
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Lyme borreliosis (LB) is the most common tick-borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere and the number of LB cases is increasing. The infection is caused by spirochetes belonging to the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex, and is, in Europe, transmitted to humans by Ixodes ricinus ticks.

To gain a deeper knowledge of the interactions between ticks, humans and Borrelia bacteria, we investigated temporal differences in exposure to tick bites in different parts of Sweden and the Åland Islands, Finland during the years 2008 and 2009. We also investigated the site of tick attachment on the human body and the time it takes for a person to detected and remove such ticks. Furthermore, the distribution of Borrelia species and the number of Borrelia cells in the ticks were investigated. Sera taken from the tick-bitten persons at study inclusion were analyzed for the presence of Borrelia antibodies. Three months later, the clinical outcome and the serological response of the tick-bitten persons were investigated. A total of 2154 I. ricinus ticks and 1546 participants were included in the studies.

Participants were exposed to tick bites between April and November, but temporal and spatial differences in exposure to ticks was found. The majority of the tick bites were caused by nymphs (70%) and most tick bites took place on the legs (50%). The site of tick attachment on the body as well as the age and gender of the participant influenced how soon a tick was detected. The majority of participants removed “their” ticks later than 24 hours of attachment. Of all ticks, 26% was Borrelia-infected, but the prevalence varied between the life stages of the tick and between the studied areas. Six species of the B. burgdorferi sensu lato complex and one Borrelia species that may cause tick-borne relapsing fever were detected. Adult ticks that had fed more than 36 hours contained a lower number of Borrelia cells than adult ticks that had fed less than 36 hours. The seroprevalence among the participants varied between genders as well as between the studied areas. Of all participants, 2% was diagnosed with LB and 2.5% seroconverted without an LB diagnose. A correlation between seroconversion and duration time of tick attachment was found, but the number of Borrelia cells in the tick, did not explain the risk of infection for the bitten person.

A deeper knowledge and a better understanding of the interactions between ticks, humans and Borrelia bacteria may contribute reducing the risk for tick bites and the risk of developing LB after a tick bite.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2014. 130 p.
Series
Linköping University Medical Dissertations, ISSN 0345-0082 ; 1385
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-105476 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-105476 (DOI)978-91-7519-460-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-04-24, Berzeliussalen, Campus US, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-03-25 Created: 2014-03-25 Last updated: 2014-04-04Bibliographically approved
2. Epidemiological and Ecological Studies of Tick-borne Encephalitis Virus
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Epidemiological and Ecological Studies of Tick-borne Encephalitis Virus
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Ticks are blood-sucking parasites that are an inconvenience for both humans and animals. The tick by itself is normally harmless unless they attack in excessive numbers. The harm from ticks stems from them being excellent vectors for other parasites, in the form of bacteria and virus that via the ticks are provided a bridge to move across the blood streams of different animals, including humans.

One of the most pathogenic tick-borne disease for humans is caused by a flavivirus, the tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV). Each year approximately 10 000 individuals on the Eurasian continent develop neurological disease, in the form of meningitis, encephalitis, myelitis and radiculitis, following a bite by a TBEV infected tick.

To evaluate the risk of TBEV infection after a tick-bite, we have developed a study to investigate ticks that have bitten humans and to follow up the tick-bitten humans to investigate if they get infected, and if they develop symptoms, and further trace the virus back to the tick that is infected with TBEV. Ticks, blood samples, and questionnaires were collected in collaboration with 34 primary health care centers in Sweden and on the Åland Islands during 2008 and 2009.

Several demographical and biological factors were investigated regarding the interaction between ticks and humans. The main finding was that men removed the ticks later than women, and that both older men and older women removed the ticks later than younger individuals. This could in part explain why older individuals in general, and men in particular, are at greater risk of acquiring tick-borne encephalitis (TBE).

Furthermore, the prevalence of TBEV in ticks that have bitten humans were investigated, in order to correlate the copy number of TBEV in the tick and the tick feeding-time to the risk of developing symptomatic and asymptomatic infection. This entailed the development of new methodology for tick analysis and TBEV real-time PCR. The result showed a very low risk of TBEV infection in the studied areas, only 5 of 2167 investigated ticks contained TBEV. Three of the individuals bitten by TBEV infected ticks were vaccinated and did not develop symptoms of TBEV infection. One unvaccinated individual got bitten by a tick containing 1800 virus copies, with a feeding-time of 12-24h, and interestingly showed no signs of infection. Another unvaccinated individual got bitten by a tick containing 7.7 million virus copies, with a feedingtime of >60h. This individual developed symptoms consistent with a 1st phase of TBE, including fever and headache, but did not develop the 2nd neurological phase of TBEV infection. Despite only  finding 5 ticks infected with TBEV, a correlation between the virus load in the tick and the tick feeding-time was observed. In 2 other individuals, TBEV antibody seroconversion was detected during the 3 month study period, one without symptoms, while the other experienced symptoms consistent with the 1st phase of TBE. These observations support the hypothesis that a higher virus amount in the tick and a longer feeding time increases the risk of TBEV infection.

To further examine TBEV in ticks that have bitten humans and find factors that may predict the risk of human infection and development of TBE, we characterized several TBEV strains genetically. Including TBEV strains isolated from ticks that have bitten human, from questing field-collected ticks, and TBEV strains isolated from patients with TBE. In one of the ticks detached from a human after >60h of feeding, there was a heterogeneous population of TBEV quasispecies with varying poly(A) length in the 3’ untranslated region of the genome was observed. These variations might have implications for differences in virulence between TBEV strains, and the heterogeneous quasispecies population observed could be the virus adapting from replication in tick cells to mammalian cells.

We also investigated the response to TBEV vaccination in relation to 14 health-related factors in a population of older individuals on the Åland Islands. Blood samples, questionnaires, and vaccination records were collected from 533 individuals. Three different serological assays to characterize antibody response to TBEV vaccination were used. The main finding was that the number of vaccine doses in relation to age was the most important factor determining successful vaccination. The response to each vaccination dose declined linearly with age, and as much as 47%  of individuals 50 years or older that had taken 3 vaccine doses were seronegative, compared to 23% that had taken 4 doses and 6% with 5 doses. Comparison between the serological assays revealed that the cutoffs determining the balance between sensitivity and specificity differed, but not the overall accuracy.

Taken together, these results contribute to a better understanding of the TBEV epidemiology and can provide tools in the prevention of TBE.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2014. 72 p.
Series
Linköping University Medical Dissertations, ISSN 0345-0082 ; 1399
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-105921 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-105921 (DOI)978-91-7519-381-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-05-21, Berzeliussalen, Hälsouniversitetet, Campus US, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-04-14 Created: 2014-04-14 Last updated: 2014-04-14Bibliographically approved

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Wilhelmsson, PeterLindblom, PontusFryland, LindaForsberg, PiaLindgren, Per-Eric

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