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Emerging tick-borne infections: rediscovered and better characterized, or truly ‘new’ ?

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The emergence of
Lyme borreliosis as a public health burden within the last two decades has stimulated renewed interest in tick-borne infections. This attention towards ticks, coupled with advances in detection technologies, has promoted the recognition of diverse emergent or potentially emerging infections, such as monocytic and granulocytic ehrlichiosis, local variants of spotted fever group rickettsioses, WA-1 babesiosis, or a
Lyme disease mimic (Masters’
Disease). The distribution of pathogens associated with well-described tick-borne zoonoses such as human babesiosis due to Babesia microti or B. divergens seems wider than previously thought. Bartonellae, previously known to be maintained by fleas, lice or sandflies, have been detected within ticks. Purported ‘new’ agents, mainly identified by sequencing of PCR products and comparison with those sequences present in GenBank, are being increasingly reported from ticks. We briefly review the diversity of these infectious agents, identify aetiological enigmas that remain to be solved, and provide a reminder about ‘old friends’ that should not be forgotten in our pursuit of novelty. We suggest that newly recognised agents or tick/pathogen associations receive careful scrutiny before being declared as potential public health burdens.

Parasitology. 2004;129 Suppl:S301-27. Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural; Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, P.H.S.; Review

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