Royal Society Publishing

The shifting landscape of tick-borne zoonoses: tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme borreliosis in Europe

Sarah E. Randolph


The two major vector-borne diseases of northern temperate regions, tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) and Lyme borreliosis (LB), show very different epidemiological patterns, but both have increased significantly in incidence since the 1980s. Insight into the temporal dynamics of TBE, gained from statistical analysis of spatial patterns integrated with biological explanation, suggests that the recent increases in TBE cases in Central Europe and the Baltic States may have arisen largely from changes in human behaviour that have brought more people into contact with infected ticks. Under forecast climate change scenarios, it is predicted that enzootic cycles of TBE virus may not survive along the southern edge of their present range, e.g. in Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary, where case numbers are indeed decreasing. New foci, however, are predicted and have been observed in Scandinavia. At the same time, human impact on the landscape, increasing both the habitat and wildlife hosts of ticks, has allowed tick populations to multiply significantly. This probably accounts for a genuine emergence of LB, with its high potential transmission rate, in both the USA and Europe, although the rate of emergence has been exaggerated by improved surveillance and diagnosis.

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