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Infections transmitted by ticks. What moment are we in?

Infections transmitted by ticks. What moment are we in?

ScienHub Education, the Foundation’s platform in charge of organizing training activities, through which we can share our knowledge with the scientific community, has recently organized an International Health Day and One Health 2024. At this event, Dr. Oscar Cabezón, researcher of the conservation medicine research group (WildCoM) ( of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​​​has addressed emerging infectious diseases transmitted by ticks, underlining the importance of understanding and controlling these vectors to prevent contagious outbreaks. From the Fight Infections Foundation we have had the opportunity to talk with him to delve deeper into this issue.

Infections caused by ticks

Tick ​​infections are diseases transmitted by the bite of ticks, which are small parasitic arachnids. Ticks feed on the blood of mammals, birds and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. When a tick bites a host, it can transmit several pathogens, including bacteria, viruses and protozoa, which can cause disease in humans and animals.

What infections can ticks transmit?

Tick-borne diseases have increased in recent decades due to factors such as climate change, urbanization and changes in human and animal habits. It is important to keep in mind that we are not only talking about a single species of ticks, but there are many. Each species of tick is capable of transmitting different bacterial and viral diseases, not only dangerous to humans, but also to other animals.

What would we need to take into account as a society?

The ethology of these pathogens is immersed in very complex life cycles, because they not only depend on the ecosystem in which they live, but also on the proportions of the different animal species, because each tick feeds on one species or another, and if one of these is a carrier of another pathogen, this also affects the disease they transmit. At the same time, these animal species, on which they feed, are more or less susceptible to pathogens and will have a greater or lesser capacity to be a reservoir for each pathogen.

What research are you carrying out?

From my research group, what we do is study the ecology of tick-borne diseases from a more holistic point of view, seeing how certain alterations in the environment, caused by humans, can affect the presence of a pathogen in the environment.

It is becoming increasingly clear that we need to work towards OneHealth.

It is evident that infections transmitted by ticks highlight the importance of working on health from a global point of view, studying and determining the influence of different factors on the ecology of these diseases. It is also necessary to highlight the need to work in a multidisciplinary way between different groups (care, veterinarians, biologists, ecologists, etc.) and institutions (administrations, research centers, conservation organizations, etc.).

Should we now suffer from the possibility of an increase in tick communities?

In Catalonia we should devote more efforts to better understanding tick populations and the pathogens they can transmit. At this time there is not enough data to speak of an increase in ticks in our environment. In fact, I think it would be a mistake to simplify the reasons why we now detect more or fewer ticks in our daily lives. The answer is usually much more complex.

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