Study suggests 14 percent of global population has been infected with Lyme disease

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A new report that analyzed studies on Lyme disease through Dec. 30, 2021, concluded that approximately 14 percent of the global population had been infected with Lyme disease and found that the rate of Lyme disease infection has risen in recent years.

The study was published in BMJ Global and led by Yan Dong, PhD, of The Institute for Tropical Medicine, Kunming Medical University in Kunming, China. According to the report, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato infection, or Lyme disease, is the most common tick-borne illness. The infection begins with swelling and redness at the site of the bite, and can spread to various tissues and organs, sometimes impacting the nervous system, joints, and heart.

For their study, Dong and his colleagues attempted to gauge the prevalence of Lyme disease across the world. Dong and his team searched several scientific databases including PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, for relevant studies worldwide. From a pool of 4,196 studies on the condition through Dec 2021, researchers determined that 137 were eligible for full-text screening. Eighty-nine of the studies were included in meta-analysis.

The study’s results showed that 14 percent of the global population has been infected with Lyme disease. Regions with the highest prevalence of the disease included Central Europe, where 21 percent of the population has been infected and Eastern Asia, where 16 percent of people have had the condition. Areas with low prevalence included the Caribbean, with two percent of the population being infected, and Southern Asia, at three percent.

According to the study, explanations for variations in Lyme disease prevalence among regions include ecological changes and factors like longer summers, more time spent outside with pets, warmer winters, lower rainfall, and animal migration.

In addition, the study suggested that infection rates rose between 2010 and 2021 compared to the disease’s prevalence between 2001 to 2010.

In the paper, authors expressed hope that their results, encourage health officials to develop better response policies in relation to the disease.

“The reported estimated global Bb seropositivity is relatively high…. [Lyme disease] is a widely distributed infectious disease, but it has not received much attention worldwide,” the authors wrote.