Rising temperatures and changes in precipitation, but also global travel and goods traffic, promote the spread of both native and exotic tick species in Germany: In recent years, for example, the common wood tick (Ixodes ricinus), other Ixodes species, alluvial forest ticks (Dermacentor reticulatus) and, for some time now, the Hyalomma tick, which is mainly introduced via migratory birds, have been increasingly detected. In addition to the known TBE viruses (early summer meningoencephalitis viruses) and borrelia, some of these species can transmit other pathogens that cause diseases such as rickettsialpox, tularemia, Q fever, anaplasmosis and babesiosis in humans. How often such pathogens are transmitted has hardly been studied so far.
The research project therefore aims to better assess the risk of exposure and infection in Germany. It also aims to improve the prevention of tick-borne diseases.
The Institute for Medical Mikrobiology and Hospital Hygiene at Magdeburg University Hospital acts as the primary point of contact for the submissions.
"It is really amazing how many ticks we sometimes get from individuals. Due to the excellent cooperation with the forestry companies, the project is a great opportunity," says Prof. Gernot Geginat, Deputy Director of the Institute, who coordinates the collection of the ticks.
In the first phase of the project, the researchers examined ticks that forestry workers in Saxony-Anhalt had voluntarily collected from their bodies. During their work, these employees are exposed to a significantly higher risk of being bitten by ticks and thus also have a correspondingly increased risk of infection. Preliminary result: Between July 2019 and April 2020, mainly two tick species were found, namely alluvial forest ticks and the common wood tick. Rickettsia and previously unknown viruses were detected in the tick samples, but not Borrelia or TBE viruses.