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Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Infectious Diseases
Volume 2009 (2009), Article ID 593232, 12 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2009/593232
Review Article

Effects of Climate Change on Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases in Europe

1School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
2IS Insect Services GmbH, Haderslebener Straße 9, 12163 Berlin, Germany
3Department of Parasitology, Veterinary Faculty, University of Zaragoza, Miguel Servet 177, 50013 Zaragoza, Spain
4Applied Zoology/Animal Ecology, Institute of Biology, Free University of Berlin, 12163 Berlin, Germany
5Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

Received 3 June 2008; Accepted 18 September 2008

Academic Editor: Bettina Fries

Copyright © 2009 J. S. Gray et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Zoonotic tick-borne diseases are an increasing health burden in Europe and there is speculation that this is partly due to climate change affecting vector biology and disease transmission. Data on the vector tick Ixodes ricinus suggest that an extension of its northern and altitude range has been accompanied by an increased prevalence of tick-borne encephalitis. Climate change may also be partly responsible for the change in distribution of Dermacentor reticulatus. Increased winter activity of  I. ricinus is probably due to warmer winters and a retrospective study suggests that hotter summers will change the dynamics and pattern of seasonal activity, resulting in the bulk of the tick population becoming active in the latter part of the year. Climate suitability models predict that eight important tick species are likely to establish more northern permanent populations in a climate-warming scenario. However, the complex ecology and epidemiology of such tick-borne diseases as Lyme borreliosis and tick-borne encephalitis make it difficult to implicate climate change as the main cause of their increasing prevalence. Climate change models are required that take account of the dynamic biological processes involved in vector abundance and pathogen transmission in order to predict future tick-borne disease scenarios.