More than 14% of the world’s population has had Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne disease, according to a meta-analysis, which compiles studies on the subject, published on Tuesday.
Lyme borreliosis or Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex transmitted to humans by the bites of infected ticks.
According to the compilation published in the journal BMJ Global Health, Central Europe has the highest infection rate with 20%. And men over 50 living in rural areas are most at risk.
To show how common Lyme disease is around the world, the researchers identified 137 eligible studies – out of a possible 4,196 – and pooled data from 89 of them.
In 14.5% of the approximately 160,000 participants in total, antibodies against the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) were found in the blood.
“This is the most comprehensive and up-to-date systematic review of global Bb seroprevalence,” the study says.
After Central Europe, the regions with the highest antibody rates are East Asia with 15.9%, Western Europe with 13.5% and Eastern Europe. Is with 10.4%.
The Caribbean has the lowest rate, with only 2%.
Previous research had shown that the prevalence of tick-borne diseases had doubled in the past 12 years.
This increase is explained by longer and drier summers due to climate change, animal migration, and “increasingly frequent contact with pets”, according to the study.
Farmers and other workers who regularly interact with host animals like dogs and sheep are most at risk of being bitten by an infected tick, the study found.
Data could be skewed in areas where Lyme disease is endemic, as health authorities there are more likely to routinely perform antibody tests compared to areas where it is less common, it said.
Lyme disease is rarely fatal, but people bitten by an infected tick often develop a rash and suffer from flu-like symptoms, including muscle and joint pain, headaches, nausea and vomiting.