Lyme borreliosis: a review of data on transmission time after tick attachment
Michael J Cook
Independent researcher, Dorset, UK
Abstract: Lyme borreliosis is increasing rapidly in many parts of the world and is the most commonly occurring vector-borne disease in Europe and the USA. The disease is transmitted by ticks of the genus Ixodes. They require a blood meal at each stage of their life cycle and feed on a wide variety of wild and domestic animals as well as birds and reptiles. Transmission to humans is incidental and can occur during visits to a vector habitat, when host mammals and their associated ticks migrate into the urban environment, or when companion animals bring ticks into areas of human habitation. It is frequently stated that the risk of infection is very low if the tick is removed within 24–48 hours, with some claims that there is no risk if an attached tick is removed within 24 hours or 48 hours. A literature review has determined that in animal models, transmission can occur in <16 hours, and the minimum attachment time for transmission of infection has never been established. Mechanisms for early transmission of spirochetes have been proposed based on their presence in different organs of the tick. Studies have found systemic infection and the presence of spirochetes in the tick salivary glands prior to feeding, which could result in cases of rapid transmission. Also, there is evidence that spirochete transmission times and virulence depend upon the tick and Borrelia species. These factors support anecdotal evidence that Borrelia infection can occur in humans within a short time after tick attachment.
Keywords: Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, disease transmission, tick-borne disease, Lyme disease, tick attachment
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