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Two diseases in one tick bite: Lyme disease and babesiosis

"People in tick-infested parts of the United States such as the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Upper Midwest, are vulnerable to being exposed to two or three diseases from a single tick bite," said Felicia Keesing.
By Brooks Hays   |   June 20, 2014 at 5:52 PM   |   Comments

DUTCHESS COUNTY, N.Y., June 20 (UPI) -- Those who get bitten by blacklegged ticks are increasingly at risk of being infected with both Lyme disease and babesiosis, as the insects regularly carry both pathogens.

According to new research, blacklegged ticks are more than twice as likely than previously thought to carry both lyme disease and another pathogen, meaning victims of the blood-suckers have a higher chance of contracting not one but two of the most common tick-borne illnesses.

Researchers at Bard College, Sarah Lawrence College and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies collaborated on the research effort, colleting thousands of specimens from New York's Dutchess County, an area ripe with pathogen-filled ticks.

Nearly a third of the ticks were found to carry Lyme disease. A third of those ticks were infected with at least one other pathogen -- the most popular accompanying pathogen being babesiosis.

The research resulted in a study that was published this week in the journal PLOS ONE.

"We found that ticks are almost twice as likely to be infected with two pathogens -- the bacterium that causes Lyme disease and the protozoan that causes babesiosis -- than we would have expected," said study co-author Felicia Keesing, a biology professor at Bard. "That means health care providers and the public need to be particularly alert to the possibility of multiple infections coming from the same tick bite."

"People in tick-infested parts of the United States such as the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Upper Midwest, are vulnerable to being exposed to two or three diseases from a single tick bite," added Keesing. "And, of course, that risk increases when they're bitten by more than one tick."

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