The world, and especially Europe, must increasingly pay attention to ticks. More than 14% of the world’s population has had Lyme disease, according to a meta-analysis, which compiles studies on the subject, published Tuesday.
Lyme borreliosis or Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by bacteria transmitted to humans through the bites of infected ticks. According to the compilation published in the journal BMJ Global Health, Central Europe has the highest infection rate with 20%. And men over 50 living in rural areas are most at risk.
The Caribbean almost spared
To show how common Lyme disease is around the world, the researchers identified 137 eligible studies – out of a possible 4,196 – and pooled data from 89 of them. In 14.5% of the approximately 160,000 participants in total, antibodies against the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) were found in the blood. “This is the most comprehensive and up-to-date systematic review of global Bb seroprevalence,” the study says.
After Central Europe, the regions with the highest antibody rates are East Asia with 15.9%, Western Europe with 13.5% and Eastern Europe. Is with 10.4%. The Caribbean has the lowest rate, with only 2%.
Climate change singled out
Previous research had shown that the prevalence of tick-borne diseases had doubled in the past 12 years. This increase is explained by longer and drier summers due to climate change, the migration of animals, and “more and more frequent contact with pets”.
Farmers and other workers who regularly interact with host animals like dogs and sheep are most at risk of being bitten by an infected tick, the study found. The data could be skewed in areas where Lyme disease is endemic, however, because health authorities there are more likely to perform antibody tests regularly than in areas where it is less common, it said.
Lyme disease is rarely fatal, but people bitten by an infected tick often develop a rash and suffer from flu-like symptoms, including muscle and joint pain, headaches, nausea and vomiting.