Prevalence and incidence of antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi and to tick-borne encephalitis virus in agricultural and forestry workers from Tuscany, Italy

Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2005 Jul;24(7):457-63. doi: 10.1007/s10096-005-1348-0.


The ticks Ixodes persulcatus and Ixodes ricinus are the main vectors of both Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) virus in Eurasia. Borrelia burgdorferi is the cause of Lyme borreliosis, and TBE is a biphasic meningoencephalitis induced by an arbovirus belonging to the flavivirus family. The principal aims of the current investigation were (i) to determine the frequency of serological evidence of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and TBE infections in healthy agricultural and forestry workers, (ii) to determine the incidence of seroconversion for antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and TBE virus in Tuscan workers during a 1-year survey; and (iii) to assess the occupational risk for agricultural and forestry activities in a defined area (Tuscany, Italy). A total of 412 blood samples were taken from agricultural and forestry workers, and information on age, duration of employment, and history of tick bites was collected in a questionnaire to establish the risk factors for the diseases. Three hundred sixty-five blood donors from the same region served as controls. To estimate the rate of seroconversion, 176 of the agricultural and forestry workers were tested 1 year later. IgG and IgM antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and TBE virus were detected in serum by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and confirmed by Western blot analysis for Borrelia burgdorferi and by a test for inhibition of hemagglutination for TBE. Antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferi were more frequent among the workers than in the control group (7.8% vs. 4.9% in the IgG-IgM enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and 7.03% vs. 3.56% in the confirmatory test). No seropositivity was observed for TBE virus. Eighteen of 176 subjects who underwent a second blood test developed specific antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferi within 1 year.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agriculture*
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / immunology
  • Encephalitis Viruses, Tick-Borne / immunology
  • Encephalitis, Tick-Borne / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Forestry*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Incidence
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Lyme Disease / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M