Scotland

Tick-borne parasite found in Scottish sheep in UK first

A tick on human skin Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The tick-borne parasite causes a disease called babesiosis

An exotic and potentially deadly tick-borne parasite has been found in the UK for the first time.

A study conducted by the University of Glasgow found the parasite in sheep in the north east of Scotland.

This is the first time the organism, called Babesia venatorum, has ever been found in sheep anywhere in the world.

The parasite causes a disease called babesiosis which is recognised as an emerging infection in human health.

It has been extensively recorded in China and in Europe with two human infections confirmed in Italy in the last 20 years.

Babesiosis is treatable in most cases, although this depends on rapid and accurate diagnosis.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said infected people may get symptoms such as flu and jaundice but severe cases can lead to death.

Scientists believed the risk of people contracting this infection however is believed to be low.

'A new risk'

Researchers targeted areas where tick-borne viruses had been previously detected and collected blood from sheep, cattle and deer.

Scientists believed the parasite could have travelled to the north east of Scotland via migrating birds from Scandinavian countries.

Dr Willie Weir, from the University of Glasgow, said: "The presence of B. venatorum in the UK represents a new risk to humans working, living, or hiking in areas with infected ticks and livestock, particularly sheep.

"Although we believe the threat to humans to be low, nevertheless local health and veterinary professionals will need to be aware of the disease if the health risk from tick-borne disease in the UK is to be fully understood."