Large-scale study of preventive antibiotic usage against Lyme disease

April 16, 2013
Location of registered tick bites via and the number of tick bites per province per 100,000 inhabitants.

Today, at the start of the "Tick Week", the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and Wageningen University are commencing a large-scale study to discover whether preventive use of antibiotics can stop Lyme disease developing after a tick bite. Of the more than 3400 ticks that were sent to RIVM via (Tick radar) last year, more than 20% turned out to be infected with the Borrelia bacteria which can cause Lyme disease. Around 3% of the people bitten by ticks developed Lyme disease.

It is not yet clear to what extent the advantages of preventive (possibly less Lyme disease cases) outweigh the disadvantages (side effects of and increased resistance to antibiotics). That is the reason for asking people, who register a tick bite on and send the tick to the RIVM, to take part in this research. The participants will be divided into two groups. One group will be asked – provided the agrees – to take a single dose of antibiotics within three days of removing the tick. The other group should not take antibiotics. The research is expected to last four years.

Annually between 20,000 and 30,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease in The Netherlands, over 130 cases per 100,000 persons per year. was started a year ago with the aim of determining how often Lyme disease develops after a tick bite. This website – with more than 7,000 registrations of tick bites and more than 3,400 sent in – became the world's biggest survey of the risk of developing Lyme disease after a tick bite. The contributing to make it possible to extend the research and to look for an answer to the frequently asked question: should people receive preventive antibiotics after being bitten?

Of the 2828 people who sent in a tick in 2012 and filled in a questionnaire on every three months, 2.7 % developed Lyme disease. Of those, 80% developed only erythema migrans (red, ring-shaped skin rash) while 20 % had a more serious form of the disease. The symptoms developed mostly (91 %) within three months.

As 22% of the ticks sent to RIVM were infected with the Borrelia bacteria, the conclusion is that being bitten by an infected tick does not necessarily result in .

Relative numbers of inhabitants registering were the highest in the province of Drenthe, followed by Groningen, Utrecht and Gelderland. The province where the most people became ill after a tick bite was, relatively speaking, Utrecht. Flevoland had the fewest.

Explore further: New tick-borne disease discovered

Related Stories

New tick-borne disease discovered

September 20, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Yale School of Public Health researchers in collaboration with Russian scientists have discovered a new tick-borne bacterium that might be causing disease in the United States and elsewhere. Their findings ...

Tick season starting early this year

April 23, 2012

(HealthDay) -- Tick season has started earlier than normal due to the mild winter, which means hikers, gardeners and others who love the outdoors should take precautions to prevent becoming a meal for ticks, an expert says.

Recommended for you

Monkeys in Asia harbor virus from humans, other species

November 19, 2015

When it comes to spreading viruses, bats are thought to be among the worst. Now a new study of nearly 900 nonhuman primates in Bangladesh and Cambodia shows that macaques harbor more diverse astroviruses, which can cause ...

One-step test for hepatitis C virus infection developed

November 14, 2015

UC Irvine Health researchers have developed a cost-effective one-step test that screens, detects and confirms hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections. Dr. Ke-Qin Hu, director of hepatology services, will present findings at the ...

Computer model reveals deadly route of Ebola outbreak

November 10, 2015

Using a novel statistical model, a research team led by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health mapped the spread of the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, providing the most detailed picture to date ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.