Lyme disease pathogen detected in many children

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Borreliosis pathogen detected in many children nationwide

According to experts, around 40 percent of ticks could carry Lyme disease pathogens. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has now published a study according to which around one in 14 adolescents had already been infected with the bacteria. The causative agents of Lyme disease are therefore spread nationwide among children.

One in 14 adolescents has already been infected with Lyme disease. Around seven percent of 14 to 17 year olds have been bitten by a tick infected with Lyme disease at least once. This is shown by a nationwide representative study by the RKI. The data for the evaluation was largely provided by the large “KiGGS Survey on Child and Adolescent Health”. "This enabled us to show for the first time that Lyme disease is endemic nationwide," explains Hendrik Wilking, epidemiologist at the RKI, to the news agency "dpa". According to other studies, a manifest outbreak of the disease can only be expected in about one in 100 cases.

Antibodies against borrelia in the blood were found in three percent of the three to six year olds. In addition, children in rural regions with 7.1 percent are more affected than city children with just under four percent. Antibodies were only detected in 4.1 percent of girls and 5.5 percent of boys, and in German-born children 5.5 percent more frequently than in children with a migration background at 1.9 percent. The researchers suspect that the different leisure activities could be a reason for this. The proportion of people with infection increases with age, partly because the antibodies persist up to ten years in the blood, the authors of the study write. "What surprised the authors, however, is that cats, as pets, increase the risk of Lyme disease even more than dogs," reports Wilking. The ticks could jump over to the children when cuddling with the animals.

Treatment of Lyme disease with antibiotics It is estimated that three to 25 percent of citizens in Germany have been bitten by an infected tick. The transmitted bacteria cause Lyme disease, which is shown by the typical blush. Affected people often have a growing red spot with an irregular border. In contrast to early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE), vaccination is not possible. If Lyme disease is not treated, it can lead to inflammation of the joints, heart, nerves or brain. "It is therefore important to make the parents of small children aware again, to carefully search the children in the evenings, to remove any ticks immediately and to disinfect the wound," advises Wilking. With the supposed home remedies such as glue or oil to suffocate the tick, however, the desired effect cannot be achieved here. This only increases the risk of infection, since the animals empty their stomach contents into the puncture wound and thereby increasingly transmit bacteria and viruses to the human body, explains Prof. Dr. Ute Mackenstedt, director of the first Southern German “Tick Congress”.

Ticks are resistant To survive, ticks need a high level of humidity. In addition, sufficient host animals are necessary for their blood meal, including hedgehogs, foxes, mice and other forest mammals, as well as certain temperatures. The animals can survive frost down to minus 20 degrees. However, their activity only increases from five to six degrees plus.

Tick ​​expert Christine Klaus from the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI) in Jena explains that contact with people is usually not a good thing for ticks. Due to the lack of humidity, they die quickly when they get into the heated human home.

Scientists assume that the ticks have spread northwards in recent years. Czech researchers discovered the animals at an altitude of 1000 meters. However, due to a lack of data, it cannot be clearly clarified whether this leads to the conclusion that the total number of ticks has increased. (ag)

Read about ticks:
People made a wrong decision for ticks
Tick ​​risk very high in southern Germany
Doctors: Carefully remove ticks with tweezers
The tick season has started
Prevention: Don't panic about ticks

Image: Tamara Hoffmann /

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