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Anti-tick saliva antibody (ATSA) has potential as a biologic marker of exposure to tick bites. In 1989, we conducted a cross-sectional study of 304 outdoor workers in Monmouth County, New Jersey, to evaluate associations between self-reported tick exposure, ATSA status, and
Lyme disease antibody status. ATSA levels 1) were correlated with an index of tick exposure on the basis of three self-reported measures of tick exposure and outdoor hours worked per week (p = 0.01); 2) were consistently higher in pet owners compared with persons without pets (p = 0.03); and 3) when examined by duration since last tick bite, peaked at 3-5 weeks after tick bite and then declined (p = 0.06). ATSA levels dichotomized at the 75th percentile (approximately two standard deviations above the mean ATSA optical density of 25 subjects who denied recent tick exposure) were associated with self-reported tick exposure: adjusted odds ratios for high ATSA levels were 4.2 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.9-18.9) for moderate (versus none) tick exposure and 5.8 (95% CI 1.2-27.2) for high (versus none) tick exposure. Finally, high ATSA levels were associated with
Lyme disease seropositivity, with an adjusted odds ratio of 3.2 (95% CI 1.3-7.6). The data suggest that ATSA is a biologic marker of tick exposure that is a risk factor for
Lyme disease seropositivity.