Tick-borne pathogens increasingly widespread in Central Canada

Tick-borne pathogens increasingly widespread in Central Canada

Tick-borne pathogens, known for causing illnesses such as Lyme disease, are on the rise in Central Canada — presenting new risks in areas where they were never previously detected.

The findings from researchers at McGill University and the University of Ottawa demonstrate the need for more comprehensive testing and tracking to detect the spread and potential risk of tick-borne pathogens to human and wildlife populations throughout Canada.

“Most people know that diseases can be transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks. Ticks can carry and spread several disease agents, called pathogens, that can make people and animals sick,” explains Kirsten Crandall, a PhD candidate under the joint supervision of McGill University Professor Virginie Millien and University of Ottawa Professor Jeremy Kerr.

“While the bacteria that causes Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne pathogen in Canada, other tick-borne pathogens are moving in,” she adds.

To investigate the presence and prevalence of several emerging tick-borne pathogens, Crandall and her team analyzed small mammals and ticks collected in Ontario and Quebec. The researchers found that five emerging pathogens were present across their study sites in Central Canada, including the pathogens causing Lyme disease and babesiosis, a malaria-like parasitic disease.

They discovered that two pathogens, Babesia odocoilei and Rickettsia rickettsii, were detected outside of their historic geographic range in Quebec. These pathogens spread both babesiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. “The presence of these pathogens changes the risk of disease for Canadians and animals in some densely populated areas of Canada,” says Crandall.

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