New transmission path documented: TBE infections from goat raw milk
Early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE) can be transmitted not only by ticks, but also by infected raw milk, report German researchers. In addition, the dangerous pathogen was found in a tick species that is active much earlier in the year and into the winter, but has not previously been regarded as a carrier of the disease.
TBE is not only transmitted by ticks
Early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE) is a dangerous infectious disease that can, among other things, cause inflammation of the brain and meninges. The disease is transmitted by ticks. However, researchers are now explaining that TBE infections could also be proven by raw milk. The experts also report a finding of TBE-infected ticks in a tick species that is active much earlier in the year and into the winter, but has so far not been considered a carrier of the disease.
Infections after eating raw milk products
Although TBE infections occur regularly after eating raw milk products in Eastern Europe, such a case had not occurred in Germany before the summer of 2016, said tick expert Prof. Dr. Ute Mackenstedt, Head of the Parasitology Department at the University of Hohenheim in a message.
According to the university, a family tried the fresh goat's milk that was infected with the TBE virus when visiting a goat farm in the Reutlingen district. Two family members fell ill. They were treated in hospital, but have since recovered.
According to Prof. Mackenstedt, scientists are now working to understand the entire transmission path in the case of illness
"In this case, we were able to examine the carriers (ticks), the host animals (goats), infested foods such as goat milk and raw milk cheese and the sick people for the first time," said the parasitologist.
No risk of infection with pasteurized milk
But there are still many questions open: "The family of four took goat cheese from the farm, the two male family members also drank milk and fell ill."
This could be a coincidence or it could be because the men also had milk in addition to the cheese. The reason could also be gender-specific hormonal differences between the people involved.
As the expert explained, one can protect oneself from TBE pathogens in food. Rainer Oehme from the State Health Office in Stuttgart made it clear: "According to the current state of knowledge, a normal TBE vaccination also protects against infection via infected food."
In addition, it can be assumed that there is no risk of infection in milk products made from pasteurized milk.
Another type of tick appears as a new TBE transmitter
As further reported in the University of Hohenheim's announcement, a new tick species as a TBE transmitter was identified last year, which is active at significantly lower temperatures than the common woodbuck.
According to the information, the riparian tick (Dermacentor reticulatus) has so far not been considered a carrier of the pathogen. That has now changed, said PD Dr. Gerhard Dobler.
"In 2016 and 2017, riparian ticks infected with TBE were found at a measurement site near Leipzig," says the doctor who heads the Bundeswehr Institute for Microbiology and is head of the German Consultative Laboratory for Early Summer Meningoencephalitis (TBE).
But: “It cannot be ruled out that riparian ticks also affect humans. However, they infest animals much more often. ”TBE vaccination also protects against the TBE virus transmitted by this tick species.
Ticks are on the rise nationwide
Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria are still primarily affected by TBE infections: 80 percent of the cases recorded occurred there. However, the TBE cases are increasingly registered further north.
"We can confirm what has already emerged in the past few years," said PD Dr. Dobler. "The TBE is now also found frequently in Lower Saxony and near the Dutch border."
TBE (early summer meningoencephalitis) can be difficult, especially in the elderly. Symptoms appear in about a third of those infected.
First, there are flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting and dizziness.
According to doctors, around ten percent also develop meningitis and inflammation of the brain with the risk of permanent damage such as paralysis. The disease leads to death in one to two percent of sufferers.
Health experts advise people who live in high-risk areas or who spend more time there and are in the nature to vaccinate against TBE. (ad)