Tick-borne diseases in Belgium: identifying and communicating disease burden [HUMTICK]

Last updated on 6-2-2019 by Daisy Tysmans
November 1, 2015
October 31, 2019

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In short

In this study, we monitor patients suffering from Lyme borreliosis for a period of 6 months to 2 years after the diagnosis. We collect information on persistent complaints and the cost price of diagnosing and treating the disease. We are also conducting further research into the occurrence of other pathogens that are transmitted by ticks. The study will provide greater clarity about diseases transmitted by ticks in Belgium. This information is important for health workers, patients (associations) and policy makers.

Project summary

Lyme borreliosis is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium of the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex, transmitted to humans through a bite from an infected tick (primarily Ixodes ricinus). The disease manifests itself in a variety of clinical symptoms: dermatological, neurological, joint and, more rarely, cardiac or ophthalmological disorders. Despite adequate treatment with antibiotics, some patients report a number of non-specific symptoms, such as fatigue, musculoskeletal pain or cognitive impairments, over a longer period of time. If these persist for longer than 6 months after the treatment and are so serious that they have an impact on the patient’s daily activities, this syndrome is described as PTLDS (Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome). The precise cause of this syndrome is not yet known and only a few scientific studies have been conducted on the possible risk factors. One of the hypotheses is that co-infections by other pathogens transmitted by ticks (such as Anaplasma spp. or Babesia spp.) stimulate the development of PTLDS.

HUMTICK is a four-year research project based on a prospective cohort study in which patients suffering from Lyme borreliosis (erythema migrans and disseminated Lyme) are monitored from their diagnosis and treatment for a period of 6 months up to 2 years (according to the time of inclusion in the study). Via repeated questionnaires, we collect information on possible long-term complaints and the costs of diagnosing and treating the disease. In a second group of patients, presenting fever after a recent tick bite, we perform a multiplex PCR study to look for the presence of other pathogens (Anaplasma spp., Rickettsia spp., Neoehrlichia mikurensis, Babesia spp. and Borrelia miyamotoi).

The objectives of the study are:

  • to evaluate the burden of disease of Lyme borreliosis in Belgium
  • to quantify the costs associated with the disease
  • to evaluate the occurrence of other pathogens transmitted by ticks in Belgium
  • to objectify the occurrence of PTLDS in Belgium and identify possible risk factors.

Together with comparable studies in other countries (including the Netherlands), the study will make a contribution towards describing PTLDS and possible trigger factors.
 

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