What this Review will tell you about Tick Diseases
Tick diseases are the ones which are caused by tick bites e.g. Lyme disease. This review will discuss about tick-borne diseases which are infectious. You will know about different symptoms of these diseases along with detection and cure. We will look into different ways to detect the disease and you will be informed about different available home test kits that can help you know your health status in the comfort of your home.
Tick diseases – which are they?
As said above, tick diseases or tick-borne diseases are spread by ticks. Ticks play role of a transmitting agent between a source and a host. Following are different tick diseases along with their causative agents. Only common ones are mentioned below (1).
There are kind of tick-borne diseases that are common in different parts of the world. So, travelers to a certain part of the world should be beware of them and make sure that they take necessary precautionary measures.
Most Manifested Tick diseases
There are many tick diseases experienced in different area. However, a few of them are more common than others and affect a greater population or area. We are going to discuss such diseases below.
1. Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is an infectious disorder, caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb). It is a spirochete and infection can involve multiple organs. Most commonly involved organs and organ systems include nervous system, skin, heart and musculoskeletal system. It is the most commonly experienced tick disease in Europe. It is transmitted by ticks of the species Ixodes ricinus (2).
It is caused by Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Anaplasmosis is a commonly experienced tick-borne infection in the Northeast and Upper Midwest U.S. Fever, headache, malaise, muscle aches and joint aches are common presenting symptoms of the patients and 1% can die from its complications (3).
As mentioned above, it is a protozoan disease i.e. it is caused by a protozoa which is transmitted by a tick. It is now endemic to southern New England, New York, and the north central Midwest. Fever, fatigue, chills, sweating, headache, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, joint pain are the commonly experienced symptoms. Mortality rates are high in severe disease (4).
Ehrlichia chaffeensis is the causative agent of this disease which is spread with the help of a tick. This disease is commonly reported in North America, Asia, Brazil and Europe. Symptoms of early disease include fever, malaise, joint pain, muscle pain and chills. Severe disease can involve many organ systems and prove fatal (5).
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
It is caused by Rickettsia rickettsia and it is most commonly found in North America. The most common symptoms include fever, headache, and a specific rash. Other symptoms are lymphadenopathy, neurological symptoms, joint and muscle pains, vomiting, and cardiovascular symptoms. It can prove a fatal infection if not treated early or remained untreated (6).
Increased Spread of Tick Diseases
It has been recently observed by health authorities that tick-borne diseases are on the rise all over the world. There are many factors that are contributing to this rise. A few of such factors are listed below (7).
- Increased alteration in climate and geographical changes
- Emergence of new and resistant strains of pathogens
- Increased rate of travelling to different areas of the world
- Abundance of vectors that are ticks in this case
- Abundance of hosts due to increased population
- Changes in host immunity
- Reporting issues
- Good environment for production of ticks
All these factors are playing their role and causing an increase prevalence of tick-borne diseases. Most of these factors are modifiable and hence can be changed or controlled in order to control different tick disease. All these points should be taken in account and research results can be utilized for a long-term planning for tick disease prevention, especially in the areas where they are more common (7).
Symptoms of Tick Diseases
The early symptoms of tick diseases are usually non-specific and can match the symptoms of many other diseases. If ignored at this stage, disease can progress to involve many organ systems, leading to a life-threatening situation with complications. Following table summarizes symptoms at different stages of tick-borne diseases.
Early symptoms are almost same in all the cases. Complications may occur if these symptoms are ignored as it leads to disease progression and dissemination. It is important to test for the disease and get treated as soon as possible.
What the Infection and Disease Path looks like for Tick Diseases
A pathogen and a vector play the most important role in the disease pathogenesis. When an infected vector, a tick in this case, bites a host, pathogen is introduced in the body that then causes the disease. Let’s look into pathogenesis of different tick-borne diseases.
- Introduction of a pathogen occurs via a vector, a tick. The tick bites the skin on an exposed site and introduces the pathogen in the body.
- Adaptation of the pathogen starts as soon as it enters the skin tissues and it starts making necessary changes to survive. They include production of surface glycoproteins as well.
- Inflammatory response also begins at the site where pathogen is present and leads to activation of several signaling pathways.
- A skin lesion is formed at the bite site due to inflammation that is raised and erythematous mostly. It is called erythema migrans which is a classical lesion of tick diseases.
- The pathogen releases enzymes like proteases and others that help it to invade surrounding cells and disseminate with the time.
- As the organism spreads, it ensues an inflammatory response all over the body leading to symptoms.
- The pathogen replicates and finally involves different organ systems like nervous system, respiratory system and cardiovascular system, leading to complications and eventually death if remained untreated.
This pathway remains more or less the same in every tick-borne disease. Symptoms progress from general to specific and from less severe to more severe (8).
How are Tick Diseases detected?
When tick introduce a pathogen in the body, an immune response ensues. It involves producing antibodies to fight against the invaders. These antibodies can be detected to make a diagnosis. Investigations related to symptoms can also be used to aid with diagnosis. Such investigations include hemoglobin levels and serum bilirubin levels (4).
Definite diagnosis, however, is usually made after making thin blood slides and examining them under microscope. Disease causing organism can be detected this way (4).
Treatment of Tick Diseases
Early treatment is necessary in tick-borne diseases as late stages can prove fatal. Usually antibiotics provide effective treatment against these diseases. Such antibiotics include tetracycline, doxycycline and beta-lactam etc. Length of the treatment depends on severity of the disease and can vary from case to case. Antibiotics are given till the target is achieved (9).
Tick Diseases Home Tests on the Market today
There are different kind of kits available in the market. Some of them can be used to take a blood sample on your own, while others require a lab visit.
Some kits are more accurate than others and it is always good to perform more than one tests using different kits so there are least chances of an error.
Tick Home Test Kits
Following are some available test kits with good accuracy.
Lyme Disease (Elisa)
How to avoid getting the Tick Diseases again – Vaccines and other Protection
As it is said, prevention is always better than cure. The most important way to stay safe is to take precautionary measures. Make sure you cover your body and use tick control methods.
Now vaccination has been developed against many tick-borne diseases that provides effective prevention against the disease. If a certain tick-borne disease is common in your area or you are travelling to an area where tick diseases are present, you should get yourself vaccinated (10).
Tick-borne diseases are actually a group of diseases which are caused by a tick bite which transfers a pathogen to your body. There are wide range of symptoms that can be seen in people suffering from such diseases and an immediate action should be taken for diagnosis and treatment as they can prove fatal on the later stages. It is important to get tested for tick-borne diseases as soon as you experience the very first symptom.
Home test kits for tick diseases provide a chance to test yourself at home as soon as you notice a symptom and hence help make an early diagnosis, which further leads to a timely treatment. Home test kits are accurate and give reliable results without visiting a doctor or laboratory.