Ticks and tick-borne pathogens

As a consequence of their blood-feeding behaviour, ticks can transmit a huge variety of pathogens. Among the several dozens of viruses, bacteria and single-celled parasites the best-known are tick-borne encephalitis virus, Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria causing Lyme disease and Babesia canis causing severe disease in dogs. Ticks have perfectly adapted to their natural environment where they spend most of their several years-long life. They usually tolerate changes of environment, weather and climate well and can survive in a dormant stage during hot summers or cold winters.

They cannot walk more than a couple of metres, however, they can travel several thousand kilometres with the help of their hosts. Migrating birds for example carry large number of ticks that are not endemic in our region. Climate change enable these ticks to overwinter easier thus helping emerging pathogens to appear. Large cities are not an obstacle for ticks either. Suburban green areas and city parks give home to urbanised small mammals such as hedgehogs and squirrels that are excellent hosts for these blood-feeding parasites.

Our research focuses on the ticks and pathogens that can emerge during climate change and urbanization, and on putting DAMA (Document, Assess, Monitor, Act) protocol into practice to anticipate and mitigate human health risks.