CONCERNS have been raised after a potentially deadly tick-borne parasite was found in the UK for the first time.

The parasite causes babesiosis – a malaria-like animal disease recognised as an emerging infection in people. Spread to humans through tick bites

B venatorum, which causes flu and jaundice in humans, has been identified in sheep in north-east Scotland

It has been previously recorded extensively in China and also in Europe, with two confirmed human infections in Italy over the past 20 years, but has never before appeared in the UK.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said infected people might get symptoms such as flu and jaundice but severe cases could lead to death.

As reported by the Guardian, a study by the University of Glasgow, has concluded that the organism has been identified in sheep in the north-east of Scotland.

Willie Weir, senior university clinician, has said that the presence of B venatorum in the UK represents a “new risk” to humans working, living, or hiking in areas with infected ticks and livestock, particularly sheep.

Although Weir believes the threat to humans to be low, nevertheless urges local health and veterinary professionals to be aware of the disease if the health risk from tick-borne disease in the UK is to be fully understood and controlled.

Researchers believe B venatorum may have been carried to the UK by migratory birds from Scandinavia.

Identification of this parasite in the UK raises concerns for European public health and farming policy, according to the study’s authors.

The paper is published in the December edition of Emerging Infectious Disease.

The findings follow the recent report published in Sky News of the detection of tick-borne encephalitis virus in the UK.


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Written by

Cristina Hodgson

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