Tick-borne infections and co-infections in patients with non-specific symptoms in Poland

Published Date
Advances in Medical Sciences
Dunaj J
Moniuszko-Malinowska A
Swiecicka I
Andersson M
Czupryna P
Rutkowski K
Zambroywski G
Zajkowska J,
Grygorczuk S
Kondrusik M
Świerzbińska R
Pancewicz S

Aim: The aim of the study was the evaluation of the frequency of infections and co-infections among patients hospitalized because of non-specific symptoms after a tick bite.

Materials and methods: Whole blood, serum and cerebrospinal fluid samples from 118 patients hospitalised for non-specific symptoms up to 8 weeks after tick bite from 2010 to 2013 were examined for tick-borne infections. ELISA, Western blot and/or molecular biology (PCR; fla gene; 16S rRNA; sequencing) and thin blood smears (MDD) were used. Control group included 50 healthy blood donors. All controls were tested with PCR and serology according to the same procedure as in patients.

Results: Out of 118 patients 85 (72%) experienced headaches, 15 (13%) vertigo, 32 (27%) nausea, 17 (14%) vomiting, 37 (31%) muscle pain, 73 (62%) fever and 26 (22%) meningeal signs. 47.5% were infected with at least one tick-borne pathogen. Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato infection was confirmed with ELISA, Western blot in serum and/or (PCR (fla gene) in whole blood in 29.7% cases. In blood of 11.9% patients Anaplasma phagocytophilum DNA (16S rRNA gene) was detected; in 0.9% patients 1/118 Babesia spp. DNA (18S rRNA gene) was also detected. Co-infections were observed in 5.1% of patients with non-specific symptoms. B. burgdorferi s.l. - A. phagocytophilum co-infection (5/118; 4.2%) was most common. In 1/118 (0.8%) A. phagocytophilum - Babesia spp. co-infection was detected. All controls were negative for examined pathogens.

Conclusions: Non-specific symptoms after tick bite may be caused by uncommon pathogens or co-infection, therefore it should be considered in differential diagnosis after tick bite.

Keywords: Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Babesia spp.; Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato; Co-infection; Non-specific symptoms.