Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2010 Jan;8(1):33-50.
A clear and present danger: tick-borne diseases in Europe.
Heyman P, Cochez C, Hofhuis A, van der Giessen J, Sprong H, Porter SR, Losson B, Saegerman C, Donoso-Mantke O, Niedrig M, Papa A.
Research Laboratory for Vector Borne Diseases, Queen Astrid Military Hospital, Bruynstraat 1, B-1120 Brussels, Belgium. email@example.com
Ticks can transmit a variety of viruses, bacteria or parasites that can cause serious infections or conditions in humans and animals. While tick-borne diseases are becoming an increasing and serious problem in Europe, tick-borne diseases are also responsible for major depressions in livestock production and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Asia. This review will focus on the most important circulating tick-transmitted pathogens in Europe (Borrelia spp., Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia spp., tick-borne encephalitis virus, Rickettsia spp. and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus).
PMID: 20014900 [PubMed - in process]
Full text is available here: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/717730 (it asks you to log in, unless you visit the pages via Google.)
Excerpts from the full text:
Page 12:Ticks & Tick-borne Diseases in the Past
Nowadays, it is increasingly unlikely that man encounters large predators, but an incredible variety of smaller creatures nevertheless make it their business 'to take a bite'. Throughout history, ticks have been condemned for this activity. A reference to – what could be – 'tick fever' was found on a papyrus scroll dating back to the 16th Century B.C., and an animal drawing dating back to the Queen Hatshepsut III era (15th Century B.C.) shows what were considered to be three ticks attached to a hyena's ear. Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) wrote in his Historia Animalium that "ticks are generated from couch grass" and he also described ticks as a "disgusting parasitic animal". Pliny the Elder (23–79 A.D.) in his Historia Naturalis referred to "an animal living on blood with its head always fixed and swelling, being one of the animals which has no exit (i.e., anus) for its food, bursts with over-repletion and dies from actual nourishment". He also added that "this animal is frequent on cattle, sometimes on dogs, on sheep and goats only these animals are found". There is little doubt that ticks and their bites were also already considered as harmful, as Marcus Porcius Cato (234–149 B.C.) suggested in De Agri Cultura (On Farming or On Agriculture), treatments whereby "there will be no sores and the wool will be more plentiful and in better condition and the ticks (ricini) will not be troublesome". Given the fact that current science does not appear to effectively prevent, treat or control tick-borne diseases, Cato's methods for treatment were probably also not entirely effective. The prehistoric presence of ticks in the environment was described in artifacts from the Anazasi culture (400–1300 A.D.), and speculations about the illness of the 12th Century mystica, Julian of Norwich, pointed to tick paralysis. Thomas Moffett (1553–1604), who was most likely the spiritual father of 'Little Miss Muffett', whose encounter with a giant spider is told in the popular British nursery rhyme, was also the author of "Insectorum, Sive, Minimorum Animalium Theatrum" in which he included a chapter on ticks (tikes). Theobald Smith and Frederick Kilbourne first demonstrated (1889–1893) that ticks were responsible for transmitting diseases with their experiments on transmission by Boophilus annulatus of Babesia bigemina in cattle – from then on attention to tick-borne diseases heightened.
In the past two decades, a number of 'new' or 'emerging' tick-transmitted diseases were discovered and recognized. At the same time a steady increase of human cases has been noted. From these observations a number of reasons can be identified. First, there is the increased possibility to detect and identify – via improved diagnostic tests and molecular methods – these pathogens. Second, we should consider the impact of climate change – positive or negative – on the biology of ticks: while higher mean temperatures and increased humidity facilitate tick survival on certain latitudes, in other regions the opposite effect occurs. The same parameters can also facilitate the survival and establishment of colonies in regions where tick species were not prevalent before. Travel, trade and an altered attitude towards wildlife and nature further influence vector and pathogen distribution worldwide. The fundamental problem and trigger for these effects, however, seems to be the increased human population and human behavior, and we foresee no change for the better in the near future.
Therefore, it is highly likely that tick-borne diseases are here to stay and will become an increasing problem.