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Narrative review

Tick-borne infectious diseases in Australia

Stephen R Graves and John Stenos
Med J Aust 2017; 206 (7): 320-324.
doi:
10.5694/mja17.00090
Summary

  • Tick bites in Australia can lead to a variety of illnesses in patients. These include infection, allergies, paralysis, autoimmune disease, post-infection fatigue and Australian multisystem disorder.
  • Rickettsial (Rickettsia spp.) infections (Queensland tick typhus, Flinders Island spotted fever and Australian spotted fever) and Q fever (Coxiella burnetii) are the only systemic bacterial infections that are known to be transmitted by tick bites in Australia.
  • Three species of local ticks transmit bacterial infection following a tick bite:
    • the paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) is endemic on the east coast of Australia and causes Queensland tick typhus due to R. australis and Q fever due to C. burnetii;
    • the ornate kangaroo tick (Amblyomma triguttatum) occurs throughout much of northern, central and western Australia and causes Q fever; and
    • the southern reptile tick (Bothriocroton hydrosauri) is found mainly in south-eastern Australia and causes Flinders Island spotted fever due to R. honei.
  • Much about Australian ticks and the medical outcomes following tick bites remains unknown. Further research is required to increase understanding of these areas.

The incidence of tick-related medical problems in Australia is largely unknown. Appropriate diagnostic tests are not always available and, of all tick-related diseases, only Q fever is notifiable.1 Anecdotally, however, many patients present to their doctor after a tick bite. This narrative review focuses on tick-borne infections but also touches briefly on other medical problems caused by tick bites.

Stephen R Graves
John Stenos
Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory, Geelong, VIC
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