Are ticks dangerous – which pathogens can they transmit??

Ticks can harbor a wide variety of pathogens and transmit them through bites. The number of diseases that can develop after a tick bite is correspondingly large. The point at which ticks start transmitting these pathogens varies and depends on where in the tick’s body the pathogen is located. There are pathogens that pass directly into the host organism during the bite, other pathogens are only transmitted after 12 hours of bloodsucking. Here you will find – in addition to the TBE virus and Lyme disease bacteria – some other pathogens that can be transmitted by a tick bite, in alphabetical order:

Ticks transmit TBE



The disease occurs predominantly in the regions around the Mediterranean Sea. Fever, fatigue and muscle pain are characteristics of babesiosis. However, it rarely occurs in humans.
It occurs more frequently in cattle and dogs: Parasites destroy red blood cells in the process, which can lead to the death of the animal. This animal disease is similar to human malaria, which is why in Germany it is sometimes called "dog malaria". In Germany, mainly the alluvial tick (Dermacentor reticulatus) the Babesia.

Lyme disease

Ticks transmit Lyme disease

Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi triggered infectious disease.

Lyme disease is a disease caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi triggered infectious disease. Bacteria can attack the nervous system, joints, organs and tissues and cause severe damage there. If Lyme disease is detected at an early stage, it can be treated well with antibiotics. If the Borrelia bacteria can spread unhindered in the body over a long period of time, they can cause irreparable long-term damage. Antibiotic therapy can then last for several weeks. There is no vaccination for humans against Lyme disease, unlike TBE.


It is caused by bacteria ("ehrlichia") transmitted by various species of ticks. In most cases, ehrlichiosis is asymptomatic. However, fever, headache, backache, muscle pain, nausea, or complications from additional infections with other bacteria may also occur. Humans as well as animals can be infected with ehrlichiosis.

Rickettsial fever (spotted fever)

Ticks can transmit different types of pathogens that cause spotted fever. In Europe, the Mediterranean spotted fever is known, which occurs mainly in the regions around the Mediterranean Sea. The disease is caused by rickettsia, a type of bacteria, and can affect humans as well as animals.

Early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE) is a disease caused by the TBE virus that can cause inflammation of the meninges, brain and/or spinal cord in patients and can even be fatal. TBE is not causally treatable. This means that doctors can only relieve symptoms such as high fever or pain. The body of the affected person must deal with the TBE virus alone. After surviving a TBE virus infection, long-term damage such as swallowing difficulties or paralysis symptoms may persist. The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination against TBE for those who are exposed to ticks in so-called TBE risk areas, either because they live there or travel there .

Crimean-Congo fever

The disease is caused by the CCHF virus (Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever Virus). The tick nests in the fur of sheep, goats, cows, rabbits or camels and absorbs the virus with the blood of the infected animals. When a tick bites a person, it brings the pathogens into the person’s bloodstream. Humans can be infected not only by a tick bite, but also by direct contact with diseased animals. The virus can prevent blood clotting in humans. There is intestinal bleeding, vomiting of blood and internal bleeding. In every second person the disease is fatal, a vaccination protection does not exist yet. The Crimean-Congo fever has so far not been seen in southeastern Europe (z. B. in the summer of 2006 on the Black Sea coast with two deaths), Asia or Africa occurred.

Other diseases


There are numerous other pathogens that can be transmitted by ticks worldwide – a total of about 50 different ones. But most of them are very rare or do not even occur in our latitudes.

Rare diseases – ticks can transmit pathogens

In addition to the above, the following diseases are described whose pathogens are transmitted by ticks:

Meat allergy after tick bite – so far only humans are affected
In the secretion of certain species of ticks – including those common in Germany Ixodes ricinus ("common wood tick") – the sugar molecule alpha-gal was detected. This molecule is also found in red meat. However, it is still unclear why the consumption of red meat leads to the formation of the antibody immunoglobulin E (IgE) in some people, which is particularly responsible for allergies. It is conceivable that in these individuals, the bite with a tick carrying alpha-Gal in saliva induces the formation of larger amounts of alpha-Gal-specific IgE antibodies. These antibodies can then cause allergic reactions after eating red meat. Symptoms range from skin rashes to life-threatening anaphylactic shocks [ ].

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