15 January 2020

Highland leads Scottish involvement in research on tick-borne diseases

NHS Highland is one of ten partners from across Europe working on research to develop tools to support health care systems meet the challenges of tick-borne diseases.

The NorthTick Project, which started in October 2019, will strengthen the health care systems ability to prevent, diagnose, treat and provide information about tick-borne diseases.

Raigmore Hospital in Inverness is home to the Scottish Lyme Disease and Tick-borne infections Reference Laboratory (SLDTRL). The Laboratory has 30 years of experience in the diagnosis of Lyme borreliosis and provides the Scottish diagnostic service  and the national epidemiological data. Its role has expanded to develop expertise in the laboratory diagnosis of other tick-borne diseases that may be present in Scotland, as well as determining their prevalence in the tick population.

SLDTRL is a partner in the NorthTick project and its deputy director   Dr Sally Mavin said: “In recent decades, the number of people and animals affected by tick-borne diseases has increased. The reasons for the increase in the number of ticks that carry different diseases include climate change, increased urbanization and other human impacts on the ecosystem.

“Knowledge about the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of various tick-borne diseases is increasing, but it is a challenge to get this knowledge out to the health care system and the general public.

“By improving collaboration between academic institutions, national and regional health authorities, patient organizations and other non-governmental organizations, the industry and decision-makers, the NorthTick research project will help us meet those challenges.”

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The NorthTick collaboration aims to increase awareness and stimulate the public sector to generate innovative ideas and solutions for improving the public service delivery of tick-borne diseases. 

This will include looking at prevention measures by improving communication strategies; optimising and developing new microbial diagnostic tools for the common and emerging new tick-borne diseases and implement these tools in the public sector; and improving awareness of tick-borne diseases, encouraging more targeted antibiotic treatment and better application of diagnostic tests.

The research will be carried out together with ten partners  in the North Sea Region. NorthTick is co-funded by the EU/European Regional Development Fund/Interreg North Sea Region. The project will run for three and a half years.