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Page last updated at 20:26 GMT, Tuesday, 22 March 2011
European tick established in UK
By Victoria Gill
Science and nature reporter, BBC News

European meadow tick, Dermacentor reticulatus (Image: Rainer Altenkamp, Berlin)
The scientists found five European meadow ticks in the UK

A species of blood-sucking tick native to continental Europe has become established in the UK, scientists say.

Researchers found five European meadow ticks in south-east England and west Wales during a search of the UK's dogs.

This involved 173 veterinary practices, which collectively checked more than 3,500 dogs and sent any ticks they found to a lab for identification.

The species is known to carry tick-borne infections that are not yet found in this country.

Faith Smith from the University of Bristol led the study, which was published in the journal Medical and Veterinary Entomology.

"We asked the vets to check dogs totally at random; to check any dog coming in for any reason," she told the BBC.

Ticks don't actually start to transmit infections until 24-48 hours post attachment
Faith Smith, University of Bristol

"That gave us a broad sample of dogs, and in many cases their owners weren't aware that they had picked up a tick."

As well as identifying the European meadow ticks (Dermacentor reticulatus), this search showed that almost 15% of dogs in the UK had ticks attached any one time during the summer.

Gundogs, terriers and pastoral breed groups were most susceptible to picking up ticks, which often wait in long grass for animals to brush past. Longer-haired dogs were also more susceptible.

Disease

The researchers think a changing climate and "increased global movement of people and companion animals" have assisted the spread of ticks.

Dog in long grass
Dogs often pick up ticks from long grass

"Studies have been done to show that the distribution of Ixodes ricinus (the sheep tick) has shifted northwards in continental Europe in the past few decades, and that the species has been found at higher altitudes," said Miss Smith.

"So it is possible that climate change will affect certain species of ticks."

There is concern that the European species could spread infections that do not currently occur in the UK, including tick-borne encephalitis.

"The longer the tick is on, the higher the chance of a tick-borne disease," said Miss Smith.

"Ticks don't actually start to transmit infections until 24-48 hours post attachment.

"So the sooner it is removed cleanly, the smaller the risk of getting a disease it might be carrying."



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