A new way to identify tick-borne diseases
In April 2018, the “tekenscanner“ (Dutch for tick scanner) app was launched in the Netherlands. Pet owners can use it to submit ticks free of charge for testing and enjoy a fast feedback of test results.
With the consent of the user, the location of the tick is entered in a map and thus helps identifying hot spots for ticks and tick-borne pathogens and provides an early warning system for exotic ticks invading the Netherlands.
“Tick bites can not only be uncomfortable, but ticks can also transmit dangerous diseases,” knows Professor Frans Jongejan from the Center of Tick-Borne Diseases at the University of Uetrecht. “In the Netherlands we have cases of Babesiosis, Borreliosis or Anaplasmosis. Diseases that have not been endemic in this region before.”
The tickscanner helps to collect the necessary data and provides pet owners with important information about the health of their four-legged friends.
The handling is user friendly. After a pet owner has downloaded the app, he can order a test kit and send in the tick. In a laboratory the ticks are screened for a broad range of tick-borne pathogens. Results will be added to the same app, usually within 2 weeks after the submission of each tick.
The first results are promising. Until September 2018 the app was downloaded 5591 times and resulted in the collection of 1273 ticks. There were 1004 ticks removed from 406 dogs and 268 ticks removed from 111 cats.
Almost 15% of the ticks recovered from dogs carried one or more pathogens, whereas 13.8% of the ticks removed from cats were infected.
Professor Jongejan: “We were able to create a map of ticks in the Netherlands. Our preliminary findings are that a broad spectrum of tick-borne pathogens is established in the Netherlands, including several zoonotic pathogens.”
The scanner thus provides veterinarians and pet owners with information about which diseases have been detected in their environment.
Climate change, global warming or the travelling of dogs can spread these diseases from endemic to non-endemic regions. The Vector-Borne Diseases (VBD) landscape is changing constantly throughout Europe and globally. This means that the prevention of these diseases can´t be ignored and that parasite control is important to ensure the health of a pet, and ultimately, that of the family.
So far, the Tickscanner app is only available in Dutch, but by 2020 there are plans to launch the app in several European countries.