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NHS Highland helping to take on the tick

By Gavin Musgrove

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NHS Highland is one of 10 partners from seven countries working together on a research project that will develop tools to support the health care system to meet the challenges of tick-borne diseases.

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

Ticks are becoming a bigger health problem by the year including in the Highlands.
Ticks are becoming a bigger health problem by the year including in the Highlands.

Dr Sally Mavin is deputy director of the Scottish Lyme Disease and Tick-borne infections Reference Laboratory (SLDTRL) at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness and co-beneficiary of NorthTick.

She 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 organisations, the industry and decision-makers, the NorthTick research project will help us meet those challenges.”

The main objective of NorthTick is to increase awareness and stimulate the public sector to generate innovative ideas and solutions for improving the public service delivery of tick-borne diseases in the North Sea Region (NSR).

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 in the NSR 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 from seven countries 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.

Dr Mavin added: “The initial meeting in Gothenburg went really well. It was good to meet and get to know our European partners and we are all very excited about working together in the fight against tick-borne infections and what we might achieve in the project.”

The project’s partners are Region Jönköping County – Sweden (lead partner); University of Antwerp - Belgium; University Hospital Copenhagen - Denmark; University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover - Germany; Amsterdam University Medical Center - The Netherlands; Sørlandet Hospital Trust - Norway; Sahlgrenska University Hospital - Sweden; University of Aberdeen; NHS Highland; Roskilde University - Denmark and National Institute of Public Health and Environment - The Netherlands.

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