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Tropical tick transmits typhus for the first time in Germany
It has been known for a long time that the tropical tick Hyalomma also feels good in this country. Now the giant tick has apparently infected a person in Germany with typhus. According to the University of Hohenheim, the pathogen in question has been detected in the crawling animal.
In the past few months, it has repeatedly been found that the Hyalomma tick is increasingly settling in Germany. Now the tropical giant tick has probably transmitted a form of tick-spot fever for the first time in Germany.
Pathogen detected in the tick
As the University of Hohenheim reports in a communication, at the beginning of August a man in the country was probably the first to suffer from a Hyalomma tick bite - with the typical symptoms of so-called rickettsiosis. Scientists at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart and the Bundeswehr Institute for Microbiology in Munich were able to detect the pathogen Rickettsia aeschlimannii in the tick in question.
Direct proof was not possible
According to the information, a horse owner near Siegen was stung by a Hyalomma tick at the end of July. He sent the animal to the tick researcher Prof. Dr. Ute Mackenstedt from the University of Hohenheim.
Just a few days later, the man came to the hospital with severe symptoms of illness. There was a suspicion of tick spot fever caused by the bacterium Rickettsia aeschlimannii. The tick was sent to the Bundeswehr Institute for Microbiology (IMB) in Munich, where the pathogen could be detected in the tick.
"We now know not only with certainty that the Hyalomma tick also goes to humans," said parasitologist Prof. Ute Mackenstedt, parasitologist at the University of Hohenheim, "but unfortunately there is also an urgent suspicion that here in Germany there is a transmission of the tick spot fever by the animals is actually possible. "
The patient was treated with antibiotics and the symptoms quickly resolved. It was no coincidence that it hit a horse owner: ticks of the genus Hyalomma suck especially on large mammals.
"The reason we are talking about a suspected case is that it was not possible to directly identify the pathogen on the patient," explained PD Dr. Gerhard Dobler, medical doctor at the IMB. “The treatment of the patient was the first priority. But the immediately preceding tick bite, the typical symptoms and, above all, the detection of the pathogen in the tick suggest that the case was tick typhus. ”This is also underlined by the fact that antibiotic therapy is immediate struck.
Rash gave the typhus fever its name
As the experts explain, Rickettsia aeschlimannii causes a febrile infection with headache and muscle pain, extreme joint pain, and a feeling of being burned. Typical of the disease is the rash that gave typhus fever its name: this classic sign is particularly evident on the extremities. The incubation period is about a week.
"If typhus is suspected after a Hyalomma prick, a wound swab should be taken at the puncture site and sent in for examination," said PD Dr. Dobler. "If you are unsure, feel free to contact us. It is ideal, of course, if we can also examine the tick. ”
Carrier of dangerous infectious diseases
Hyalomma marginatum and Hyalomma rufipes are originally native to the dry and semi-arid regions of Africa, Asia and southern Europe. Until recently, they did not occur in Central and Northern Europe. With their striped legs, they are a striking appearance, significantly larger than the normal local wooden trestle.
The adult ticks, which suck blood especially from large animals, are active hunters and move quickly towards their host. You cover a distance of up to 100 meters. Humans are also potential hosts of animals. Larvae and nymphs, on the other hand, are found mainly in birds and small mammals. They stay on their landlord for up to 28 days and can therefore be brought into Germany with migratory birds.
In the Eurasian region, both Hyalomma species are considered to be carriers of the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus and the Arabic hemorrhagic fever virus (Alkhumra virus). And they also transmit the Rickettsia aeschlimannii bacterium, which triggers a form of tick-spot fever.
Half of the Hyalomma ticks are infected with rickettsiae
According to the researchers, about half of the Hyalomma ticks are infected with rickettsiae. The transmission takes place exclusively via the tick. "The number of Hyalomma ticks in Germany is also significantly higher this year than in the previous year," reported Prof. Mackenstedt, referring to the publication in which the situation in 2018 was presented.
The Hohenheim parasite cooperates not only with the IMB in Munich, but also with the working group of Prof. Christina Strube at the University of Veterinary Medicine (TiHo) in Hanover. “In 2019 we have already found 50 copies in Germany so far. Last year there were a total of 35, 17 of them as specimens. ”The animals had wintered in Germany for the first time last winter.
But hibernation does not necessarily mean that Hyalomma has already become at home in Germany. "In order for a population to develop, males and females would have to be found," said Prof. Mackenstedt in an earlier press release. “This is difficult with a small population size. In addition, larvae and nymphs would have to develop that birds or rabbits need as hosts. We do not yet know whether and how this works. We have to keep an eye on that. "
PD Dr. Dobler also has reassuring news: "Rickettsia are the only pathogens that we have been able to detect so far," said the expert. "We have not yet found the virus that causes the dangerous Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever or the pathogens Theileria equi and Babesia caballi, both of which can be transmitted from ticks to horses."
People are asked to help
The research team continues to ask the population for support to further investigate the spread and possible dangers. If you find a bitten tick, it is best to remove it like a domestic tick with tick pliers, tick card or tweezers. Then please send the animal in a small, tightly closed container to the University of Hohenheim, Prof. Ute Mackenstedt, Department of Parasitology, Emil-Wolff-Straße 34, 70599 Stuttgart. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- University of Hohenheim: Tropical tick: First suspected case of transmission of typhus fever in Germany, (accessed: August 17, 2019), University of Hohenheim
- Parasites & Vectors: Imported Hyalomma ticks in Germany in 2018, (accessed: August 17, 2019), Parasites & Vectors
- University of Hohenheim: Tropical ticks: Newly immigrated species hibernate for the first time in Germany, (accessed: August 17, 2019), University of Hohenheim