Rare tick-borne infections diagnosed in England

  • Public Health England
  • 31 Jul 2020

  • curated by Dawn O'Shea
  • UK Medical News
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Public Health England (PHE) reported a case of babesiosis and a probable case of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) in England. This is the first record of a UK-acquired case of babesiosis and only the second case of TBE being acquired in the UK.

Both patients have been transferred to hospital and are receiving appropriate treatment and supportive care.

PHE has surveyed sites in Devon close to where the person with babesiosis lives, collecting and testing hundreds of ticks. All tested negative for the parasite which causes babesiosis.

PHE has also tested deer blood samples from Hampshire in areas near to where the person with probable TBE lives. The samples have shown evidence of likely TBE virus infection, which matches similar results found in 2019.

PHE says the risk of babesiosis or TBE for the general public is very low but advised that people should “be tick aware.”

Dr Katherine Russell, Consultant in the Emerging Infections and Zoonoses team at PHE, said: “It is important to emphasise that cases of babesiosis and TBE in England are rare and the risk of being infected remains very low. Lyme disease remains the most common tick-borne infection in England.”

Babesiosis is caused by Babesia spp. Most patients have either no symptoms or mild symptoms of infection. However, a severe form of babesiosis, which may be life-threatening if untreated, may occur in individuals who have undergone a splenectomy or who have an impaired immune system

TBE is caused by the Flavivirus genus. Around two-thirds of patients are asymptomatic. For those who develop symptoms, there are often two phases. The first is associated with flu-like symptoms. This can progress to a more serious second phase that involves the central nervous system, potentially leading to meningitis, encephalitis and paralysis.