Tick-borne disease

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Tick-borne disease
Classification and external resources
Specialty Infectious disease
eMedicine emerg/584
MeSH D017282

Tick-borne diseases, which afflict humans and other animals, are caused by infectious agents transmitted by tick bites. Tick-borne illnesses are caused by infection with a variety of pathogens, including rickettsia and other types of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Because individual ticks can harbor more than one disease-causing agent, patients can be infected with more than one pathogen at the same time, compounding the difficulty in diagnosis and treatment. Currently (2015), there are 16 known tick-borne diseases of humans (four discovered since 2013).

As the incidence of tick-borne illnesses increases and the geographic areas in which they are found expand, it becomes increasingly important that health workers be able to distinguish the diverse, and often overlapping, clinical presentations of these diseases.

Diagnosis and treatment[edit]

In general, specific laboratory tests are not available to rapidly diagnose tick-borne diseases. Due to their seriousness, antibiotic treatment is often justified based on clinical presentation alone.


Ticks tend to be more active during warmer months, though this varies by geographic region and climate. Areas with woods, bushes, high grass, or leaf litter are likely to have more ticks. Those bitten commonly experience symptoms such as body aches, fever, fatigue, joint pain, or rashes. People can limit their exposure to tick bites by wearing light-colored clothing (including pants and long sleeves), using insect repellent with 20%–30% DEET, tucking their pant legs into their socks, checking for ticks frequently, and washing and drying their clothing (in a hot dryer).[1] Another natural form of control for ticks is the guineafowl, a bird species which consumes mass quantities of ticks. So good animal husbandry can reduce tick prevalence in a high tick prevalence area.[citation needed]

Assessing Risk[edit]

For a person or companion animal to acquire a tick-borne disease requires that that individual gets bitten by a tick and that that tick feeds for a sufficient period of time. The feeding time required to transmit pathogens differs for different ticks and different pathogens. Transmission of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease is well understood to require a substantial feeding period.[2]

For an individual to acquire infection, the feeding tick must also be infected. Not all ticks are infected. In most places in the US, 30-50% of deer ticks will be infected with Borrelia burgdorferi (the agent of Lyme disease). Other pathogens are much more rare. Ticks can be tested for infection using a highly specific and sensitive qPCR procedure. Several commercial labs provide this service to individuals for a fee. The Laboratory of Medical Zoology (LMZ) is a non-profit lab at the University of Massachusetts that provides a comprehensive TickReport [3] for a variety of human pathogens and makes the data available to the public.[4] Those wishing to know the incidence of tick-borne disease in their town or state can search the LMZ surveillance database.[4]


Major tick-borne diseases include:


  • Relapsing fever (Tick-borne relapsing fever, different from Lyme disease due to different Borrelia species and ticks)
    • Organisms: Borrelia species Such as Borrelia hermsii, Borrelia parkeri, Borrelia duttoni, Borrelia miyamotoi
    • Vector: Ornithodoros species
    • Regions : Primarily in Africa, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Asia in and certain areas of Canada and the western United States
    • Symptoms: Relapsing fever typically presents as recurring high fevers, flu like symptoms, headaches, and muscular pain, with less common symptoms including rigors, joint pain, altered mentation, cough, sore throat, painful urination, and rash.[7]
    • Treatment: antibiotics are the treatment for relapsing fever, with doxycycline, tetracycline, or erythromycin being the treatment of choice.[8]



  • Babesiosis
    • Organism: Babesia microti, B. equi
    • Vector: I. scapularis, I. pacificus
    • Region (US): Northeast West Coast
  • Cytauxzoonosis
    • Organism: C. felis
    • Vector: D. variabilis (American Dog Tick)
    • Region (US): South, Southeast


  • Tick paralysis
    • Cause: Toxin
    • Vector (US): D. andersoni, D. variabilis West
    • Region (US): East
    • Vector (Australia): Ixodes holocyclus[11]
    • Region (Australia): East

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tick-Borne Diseases". cdc.gov. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Retrieved May 21, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Tick-Encounter". Retrieved June 19, 2015. 
  3. ^ "TickReport". tickreport.com. Laboratory of Medical Zoology: University of Massachusetts. 
  4. ^ a b "Tick-Borne Disease Network". tickdiseases.org. Laboratory of Medical Zoology: University of Massachusetts. 
  5. ^ Mayo Clinic Staff. "Lyme disease: Symptoms". MayoClinic.com. Diseases and Conditions. Mayo Clinic. 
  6. ^ Mayo Clinic Staff. "Lyme disease: Treatments and drugs". MayoClinic.com. Diseases and Conditions. Mayo Clinic. 
  7. ^ Relapsing fever at eMedicine.
  8. ^ Relapsing fever~treatment at eMedicine.
  9. ^ a b c d Lindblom, A; Wallménius, K; Nordberg, M; Forsberg, P; et al. (2012). "Seroreactivity for spotted fever rickettsiae and co-infections with other tick-borne agents among habitants (sic) in central and southern Sweden". European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases 32 (3): 317–23. doi:10.1007/s10096-012-1742-3. PMC 3569577. PMID 22961007. 
  10. ^ Pastula, DM; Turabelidze, G; Yates, KF; Jones, TF; et al. (March 2014). "Notes from the field: Heartland virus disease - United States, 2012-2013". Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 63 (12): 270–1. PMID 24670929. 
  11. ^ "Ticks". medent.usyd.edu.au. Department of Entomology, University of Sydney and Westmead Hospital. November 7, 2003. 

External links[edit]