Tests show more ticks carrying Lyme disease bacteria

Thirty-one percent of blacklegged ticks submitted to the Tick Testing Laboratory at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station tested positive for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi.

The experiment station said Monday that this is an increase of nearly 6 percent from an average of 26 percent over the last five years of testing from 2010 to 2014. This is the statewide average for more than 2,400 ticks tested from the state’s eight counties.

In New London County, 33 percent of ticks tested carried the Lyme disease bacteria, the experiment station said in a news release.

Last year, the tick testing program, begun in 1990, was expanded to test for two emerging pathogens carried by ticks: Babesia microti, the agent for babesiosis; and anaplasmoisi, which causes anaplasmosis. Statewide, 11 percent of ticks tested carried the babesiosis parasite, while 4.9 percent carried the anaplasmosis bacteria. About 8.5 percent of the ticks tested from New London County carried the babesiosis parasite, and 5.1 percent carried anaplasmosis bacteria.

The experiment station said some ticks tested positive for two or all three pathogens, carrying an increased risk to human health.

“The tick testing results highlight the growing risk of existing and emerging human infection with tick-associated diseases throughout the state and the importance of taking precautionary measures to avoid tick bites,” Theodore Andreadis, director of the experiment station, said.

Overall, more than 40 percent of all the ticks tested are infected with at least one of the agents capable of causing human infection, the experiment station said.

From 2010 to 2014, there were 13,983 human cases of Lyme disease reported in Connecticut, and 659 cases of babesiosis, and 286 cases of anaplasmosis were reported in in the state, the experiment station said. 

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