Watch out for ticks, even in your garden

Especially active in the spring and autumn, ticks are the main vectors of pathogens responsible for infectious diseases in Europe. In particular, they transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease in humans. Bites can occur in woods and forests, but also in gardens. A new participatory research programme in Nancy, entitled TIQUoJARDIN, is seeking to gain a better understanding of the risks associated with garden ticks and the pathogens they carry.

Some tick species can transmit viruses, bacteria or parasites to animals and humans. The main human tick-borne disease in France is Lyme disease, caused by a bacterium from the group Borrelia burgdorferi. In the event of infection, a characteristic red "bull's eye" appears on the skin a few days after the bite, usually around the bite area, and spreads outwards in a circular pattern. Without treatment, the disease can cause skin, muscle, neurological and joint disorders that are sometimes highly disabling.

Certain precautions can be taken to avoid this risk:

  • use repellents, opting for those with marketing authorisation and complying with their conditions of use (all this information is given on the product's label, packaging and/or leaflet);
  • wear closed shoes and clothing that covers the body; light colours will help you more easily identify any ticks on the surface of the fabric;
  • avoid walking through long grass, bushes and low branches and keep to signposted paths;
  • inspect your body when returning from walks;
  • if you are bitten, remove the attached ticks immediately using a tick remover, fine tweezers or, failing that, your fingernails. Never use ether or any other similar product, and disinfect the wound;
  • monitor the bite area for several days and see your doctor if symptoms develop.

Although the risk of tick bites is usually associated with walks in woods and forests, this risk also exists in gardens: the rate of reported bites increased from 28% between 2017 and 2019, to 47% during the first French lockdown, from March to May 2020. These tick bites were reported via the Signalement Tique app developed by INRAE and the CPIE Nancy-Champenoux centre for environmental initiatives, as part of the CiTIQUE participatory research programme, of which ANSES is a partner.

A garden tick hunt in Nancy to help researchers

Although it is known that a proportion of tick bites occurs in gardens, few studies have been carried out on them. And so the TIQUoJARDIN participatory research project has just been launched. It is supported by ANSES, INRAE, the ARBRE Laboratory of Excellence (advanced research on tree biology and forest ecosystems), the University of Lorraine and the CPIE Nancy-Champenoux. Participants have to collect ticks from their garden, bring them to the laboratories and answer a questionnaire. The aim is to discover which tick species are present, the pathogens they carry, and the factors influencing the presence of ticks in gardens and the risk of bites: distance from the nearest forest and whether or not it adjoins the garden, type of vegetation in the garden, activities practised, etc. Because of the logistics involved in delivering the equipment needed to capture the ticks, the study area is limited to about 30 km around Nancy. The collection campaign will run from 5 May to 11 July. For details of how to participate, see the press release.