In The Netherlands, the incidence of Lyme borreliosis is on the rise. Besides its causative agent, Borrelia burgdorferi s.l., other potential pathogens like Rickettsia, Babesia and Ehrlichia species are present in Ixodes ricinus ticks. The risk of disease associated with these microorganisms after tick-bites remains, however, largely unclear. A prospective study was performed to investigate how many persons with tick-bites develop localized or systemic symptoms and whether these are associated with tick-borne microorganisms.
In total, 297 Ixodes ricinus ticks were collected from 246 study participants who consulted a general practitioner on the island of Ameland for tick bites. Ticks were subjected to PCR to detect DNA of Borrelia burgdorferi s.l., Rickettsia spp., Babesia spp. or Ehrlichia/Anaplasma spp.. Sixteen percent of the collected ticks were positive for Borrelia burgdorferi s.l., 19% for Rickettsia spp., 12% for Ehrlichia/Anaplasma spp. and 10% for Babesia spp.. At least six months after the tick bite, study participants were interviewed on symptoms by means of a standard questionnaire. 14 out of 193 participants (8.3%) reported reddening at the bite site and 6 participants (4.1%) reported systemic symptoms. No association between symptoms and tick-borne microorganisms was found. Attachment duration ≥24 h was positively associated with reddening at the bite site and systemic symptoms. Using logistic regression techniques, reddening was positively correlated with presence of Borrelia afzelii, and having 'any symptoms' was positively associated with attachment duration.
The risk of contracting acute Lyme borreliosis, rickettsiosis, babesiosis or ehrlichiosis from a single tick bite was <1% in this study population.