Ticks and tickborne bacterial diseases in humans: an emerging infectious threat

Clin Infect Dis. 2001 Mar 15;32(6):897-928. doi: 10.1086/319347. Epub 2001 Mar 14.


Ticks are currently considered to be second only to mosquitoes as vectors of human infectious diseases in the world. Each tick species has preferred environmental conditions and biotopes that determine the geographic distribution of the ticks and, consequently, the risk areas for tickborne diseases. This is particularly the case when ticks are vectors and reservoirs of the pathogens. Since the identification of Borrelia burgdorferi as the agent of Lyme disease in 1982, 15 ixodid-borne bacterial pathogens have been described throughout the world, including 8 rickettsiae, 3 ehrlichiae, and 4 species of the Borrelia burgdorferi complex. This article reviews and illustrate various aspects of the biology of ticks and the tickborne bacterial diseases (rickettsioses, ehrlichioses, Lyme disease, relapsing fever borrelioses, tularemia, Q fever), particularly those regarded as emerging diseases. Methods are described for the detection and isolation of bacteria from ticks and advice is given on how tick bites may be prevented and how clinicians should deal with patients who have been bitten by ticks.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity
  • Bacterial Infections / epidemiology
  • Bacterial Infections / transmission
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging
  • Humans
  • Life Cycle Stages
  • Tick-Borne Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Tick-Borne Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Tick-Borne Diseases* / microbiology
  • Tick-Borne Diseases* / therapy
  • Ticks* / anatomy & histology
  • Ticks* / classification
  • Ticks* / microbiology