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Deadly risks from new carriers: This subtropical tick species is spreading more and more

Deadly risks from new carriers: This subtropical tick species is spreading more and more


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Dangerous subtropical tick species first detected in Austria

In the past few months, health experts have increasingly reported against a growing danger from ticks. In the meantime, non-native species also appear here. For example, a subtropical tick species that can transmit the life-threatening Crimean-Congo fever virus has now been detected in Austria. The "giant ticks" have also been discovered in Germany.

Public health risk

For years, the World Health Organization (WHO) has published a list of diseases and pathogens that “pose a risk to public health and for which there are no or insufficient countermeasures,” as the organization writes on its website. Accelerated research is urgently needed for these diseases "given their potential to cause a public health emergency and the lack of effective medicines and / or vaccines". One of these diseases is the Crimean-Congo fever. You can get infected with a tick species that has now been detected for the first time in Austria.

Carrier of the life-threatening Crimean-Congo fever virus

As the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna wrote in a statement, the tick species Hyalomma marginatum is mainly located in the Mediterranean, Asia and North Africa.

However, larvae and nymphs of the dangerous bloodsuckers are also brought to northern Europe from their traditional range of migratory birds in the spring.

The climate prevailing in our latitudes has so far prevented further development of the transmitter of the life-threatening Crimean-Congo fever virus.

However, the above-average warm summer contributed to the fact that researchers from the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart and their colleagues at the Bundeswehr Institute for Microbiology (IMB) in Munich have detected several specimens of this tick species this year.

The comparatively large animals with the strikingly striped legs had appeared in the Hanover area, in Osnabrück and in the Wetterau, probably introduced via birds.

The experts said in a message that they feared that the bloodsuckers could establish themselves here.

Sexually mature parasite found in Austria

In addition to babesia, unicellular, eukaryotic parasites, these ticks can also transmit dangerous bacteria such as Rickettsia aeschlimannii and viruses such as the Thogot virus or West Nile virus and the life-threatening Crimean-Congo fever virus.

Now a sexually mature parasite has been found for the first time in Austria and confirmed by experts from Vetmeduni Vienna.

Although the subtropical bloodsucker had no Crimean-Congo fever in their luggage, it did, according to a joint analysis by Vetmeduni Vienna, the Austrian Food Security Agency (AGES) and Meduni Vienna, the bacteria species Rickettsia aeschlimannii, which is also relevant for humans.

Human-relevant pathogen detected

According to the information, the discovery of the tick species was reported by attentive horse owners from the Melk area.

The species were first confirmed by morphological examination under a microscope and by a specific DNA, as was the subsequent check for pathogens relevant to humans.

The Crimean-Congo fever virus was excluded. Nevertheless, a human-relevant pathogen was detected with Rickettsia aeschlimannii.

"The above-average warm and dry conditions in summer and the very warm autumn meant that the soaked nymphs were able to develop into adult ticks even in otherwise unsuitable areas, probably in insufficient numbers to establish themselves firmly," said Georg Duscher from the Institute for Parasitology at Vetmeduni Vienna.

“However, there is a possibility that the more developed and robust adult animals can survive the winter. We will only know this in the spring. The detection of even fewer adult ticks means a potential hazard, as can be seen from the infection with rickettsia, ”said the scientist.

No acute warning signal

Detection in combination with the fourth warmest heating period in Central Europe may not be an acute warning signal at first.

But it confirms that the adult parasites can develop from the pre-stages with a corresponding temperature profile in Central Europe. According to the experts, this should trigger a rethink.

“The connection with migratory birds should be given more attention. It is also important to establish a regulated screening and to have the right detection methods at hand for any pathogens that may have been introduced. The same applies to therapy and control measures, ”said Franz Allerberger from AGES.

Because the dangerous thing about this tick species is undoubtedly that, in addition to Rickettsia or West Nile, it can transmit Crimean-Congo fever viruses.

That is why AGES has set up a special website that provides information about various tick types and the potential danger that they can pose.

The fatal outcome of the disease can be prevented

The Crimean-Congo fever recently attracted attention in several cases in Turkey and also in Spain.

This disease is triggered by a viral pathogen, which is one of the arboviruses and causes a hemorrhagic fever. It is also important because there is no vaccination yet.

However, timely treatment with an anti-viral agent can prevent the fatal outcome of the disease.

“We were pleasantly surprised that animal owners reacted so attentively. Hyalomma ticks can be differentiated morphologically from the domestic ones, ”says Duscher.

"However, it cannot be assumed that so much attention will be paid to it outside of expert circles," said the scientist.

“But we see this as a positive trend that both vigilance and interest are given by the population. This makes it easier for us to screen for new and dangerous tick species and shows that the information transfer works. ”(Ad)

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