Disease carrier tick
Bitten by a tick?
We can tell you whether the parasite was infected
A small dark lump at the back of the knee, on the neck or in the armpit. On closer inspection, you find out: A tick has bitten into your skin, sucking blood. This is not only annoying, but potentially dangerous as well. In fact, the risk of tick-borne infection is on the rise due to climate change and increasingly mild weather conditions.
In many cases, there is more to ticks than meets the eye – dangerous viruses and bacteria.
After a tick bite, these pathogens can be transmitted to the wound from the salivary gland or from the tick's gut, possibly causing severe infection. The most common diseases include a virus-induced meningitis (tick-borne encephalitis, abbreviated as TBE) and borreliosis, an inflammatory bacterial disease with diverse and often vague symptoms, affecting joints, muscles, nerves, heart or skin, which can suddenly appear even years after exposure. At this point in time, it is often far to late to make the connection to the tick bite.
If you notice a tick on your body, you are therefore well advised to make certain without delay that there is no risk of infection.
An antibody test will provide detailed information: The detection of antibodies in the blood indicates that the immune system is fighting TBE viruses or borrelia bacteria. These antibodies develop two to three weeks after infection.
However, the following motto applies to treatment after being bitten by an infected tick: The sooner, the better. For this reason, some doctors immediately prescribe antibiotics – even before clarifying whether the patient has actually been infected after the tick bite. This is problematic, because the unnecessary administration of antibiotics renders them less and less effective.
Thus, a detection method for identifying the pathogen directly in the tick (dead or still alive) means genuine medical progress. For this purpose, the tick is cautiously removed, preferably with fine-tipped tweezers or with a tick lasso (available at the pharmacy).
The animal is fixed on a sheet of paper or placed in an empty film container and brought to the doctor or sent directly to our specialised laboratory.
At our laboratory, even tiny amounts of pathogens can be detected in the gut contents of the tick within only a few hours, using the so-called PCR method (polymerase chain reaction). The identification is based on DNA analysis. In other words, it is determined whether the genetic material of borrelia bacteria or TBE viruses can be detected in the tick.