Bundesamt für Naturschutz


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Lyme borreliosis in Europe: influences of climate and climate change, epidemiology, ecology and adaptation measures




Lindgren, E., Jaenson, T.G.T.




World Health Organization (WHO)


Review of the impacts of climate change and adaptation on Lyme borreliosis (LB) in Europe.
LB is the most common vector-borne disease in Europe. The highest incidence is reported from Austria, the Czech
Republic, Germany, and Slovenia, as well as from the northern countries bordering the Baltic Sea.
LB is a multi-system disorder that is treatable with antibiotics, but may lead to severe complications of the neurological system, the heart, and the joints.
LB is caused by a spirochete (Borrelia burgdorferi s.l.), which is transmitted to humans by ticks, in Europe mainly the species Ixodes ricinus. Reservoir animals are small rodents, insectivores, hares and birds.
Ticks may live for more than three years and are highly sensitive to changes in seasonal climate. Daily seasonal climatic conditions directly impact tick survival and activity. Indirectly, climate affects both tick and pathogen occurrence through effects on habitat conditions and reservoir animal density. In addition, climate-induced changes in land use and in recreational behaviour influence human exposure to infected ticks and thus disease prevalence.
Since the 1980s, tick vectors have increased in density and spread into higher latitudes and altitudes in Europe. It can be concluded that future climate change in Europe will facilitate a spread of LB into higher latitudes and altitudes, and contribute to increased disease occurrence in endemic areas. In some locations, where climate conditions will become too hot and dry for tick survival, LB will disappear.
There is a need to strengthen preventive measures such as information to the general public, surveillance activities
within a pan-European network and to use standardized methods to provide data for future research activities.

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