Muriel spoke about the OHTICK project, which is a one health approach to identify the pathogens transmitted by ticks, pathogens that could be responsible for the unexplained syndromes suffered by many people particularly in those where Lyme disease has been excluded. The project follows on from a previous online collecting tool that had been piloted in France called citique. Muriel is the director of the OHTICK project, it is a multi disciplinary project combining veterinarians, doctors, scientists and sociologists who will work collaboratively to better characterise the diseases that are transmitted by ticks.
The project objectives included detecting, identifying and isolating the microorganisms collected from patients and animals that have been bitten by ticks, demonstrate the ability of ticks to transmit these agents and to provide elements for better management of tick borne diseases. The project is over four main sites in France and is projected to last for two years. Here is the link to read more about the project : https://www.ohticks.fr/en/ohticks-2/.
This is the advert looking for potential participants to respond to.
My final visit in France was to Vet-Alfort in Paris
Where I met Sarah Bonnet, who is a Biologist/Parasitologist and qualified as a medical and veterinary entomologist. Her PhD was on mosquitoes and malaria.
Sarah started by telling me she had just finished reading one of Peter May’s books and she was now thinking of travelling to the Western Isles.
The unit has a staff of approx 50 people and there are teams within the unit working on topics such as food borne pathogens (i.e. salmonella / campylobacter) and then there is the vector borne disease group and that is divided into 3 groups. Working on ticks and tick borne pathogens, initially the teams worked on bartonella and the studies were able to demonstrate that ticks were able to transmit bartonella, this was relevant for patients with persistent symptoms , particularly where Lyme disease is negative.
Other studies are undertaken on interactions of tick host pathogens, vertebrae hosts that are the reservoirs for pathogens and ecology; some of the projects the staff have been working include ; anti tick vaccine (for animals); developing tools for identifying many pathogens in ticks and vertebrate in one sample; tick/pathogen interactions; tick/host interactions/alpha gal syndrome; epidemiological studies; Anaplasma studies; impact of tick microbiom on the transmission of pathogens.The lab interacts with many groups across France and works in collaboration on many of the projects.
Sarah received a French prize for the development of a tick feeding system. The prize is awarded every two years and offered for new techniques that can be used to replace the use of animals in laboratories.
In the lab studies look at how ticks react to certain things; therefore ticks at the different stages (larvae, nymph and adult) are required. Previously ticks were engorged on a range of animals within the lab and the monitoring was undertaken. Sarah’s system means that animals do not need to be used for feeding ticks. Ticks are in the box and the blood is put in a glass vial which touches the membrane. Ticks have access to a blood meal by attaching to a membrane therefore mimicking the action of ticks feeding on host skin. The use of the system has been compared to how ticks feed on hosts and it was found to take approx 2 days longer for a tick to become fully fed through the system. The system was developed for feeding Ixodes ricinis ticks. Colleagues from laboratories in other countries have been to observe the system and it has been adapted by other laboratories to successfully engorge other tick species, each tick species requires some changes to the system to be effective. Another positive factor of the system is that by manipulating the membrane or the blood the system has been used successfully to infect ticks, treat ticks with acaracids, evaluate vaccine by putting some antibodies into the blood. It reduces the use of animals and offers the opportunity to experiment with ticks, the laboratory maintain a tick colony.
Sarah has many published research papers, and she is co- editor with Nathalie Boulanger of a book on ticks and Lyme disease in French, the book is to be published very soon (March 2019). The book is aimed at the general public and has chapters on what ticks are, the difference between ticks and insects, hard and soft ticks, how the tick bite works, the fact that ticks are vectors of pathogens, how to prevent tick bites and contact with ticks, how to control ticks, the most important tick species in France and Europe, the diseases that are due to ticks, chapter on the research being undertaken in laboratories, the book includes pictures to help people and it is also easy to read.
It is hoped the book will help the public to have a better understanding of ticks as mentioned previously lots of people have become afraid of ticks and the risk they pose. There is a lot of publicity from the people that have prolonged symptoms and the arguments are not balanced by those who have ticks bites, receive the correct treatment and suffer no further ill effects. This book wants to clarify that there are actions that the public can take to reduce risks of bites. Generally people need to be encouraged to be active and should not be put of because of ticks.
Final images from Paris