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Lyme borreliosis in Europe

Despite improvements in prevention, diagnosis and treatment, Lyme borreliosis (LB) is still the most common arthropod-borne disease in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, with risk of infection associated with occupation (e.g. forestry work) and certain outdoor recreational activities (e.g. mushroom collecting). In Europe, LB is caused by infection with one or more pathogenic European genospecies of the spirochaete Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, mainly transmitted by the tick Ixodes ricinus. Recent surveys show that the overall prevalence of LB may be stabilising, but its geographical distribution is increasing. In addition, much remains to be discovered about the factors affecting genospecific prevalence, transmission and virulence, although avoidance of tick bite still appears to be the most efficient preventive measure. Uniform, European-wide surveillance programmes (particularly on a local scale) and standardisation of diagnostic tests and treatments are still urgently needed, especially in the light of climate change scenarios and land-use and socio-economic changes. Improved epidemiological knowledge will also aid development of more accurate risk prediction models for LB. Studies on the effects of biodiversity loss and ecosystem changes on LB emergence may identify new paradigms for the prevention and control of LB and other tick-borne diseases.

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