Parasit Vectors. 2018 May 2;11(1):277. doi: 10.1186/s13071-018-2860-2.

Seroprevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi in Belgian forestry workers and associated risk factors.

De Keukeleire M1,2, Robert A3, Luyasu V3, Kabamba B4, Vanwambeke SO5.

As forest is the preferred environment for ticks, forestry workers are exposed to tick bites and tick-borne diseases. We assessed the seroprevalence of anti-Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) antibodies and investigated, using an integrated landscape approach, the individual and environmental factors associated with the seroprevalence of Bb in Belgian forestry workers, a high-risk group in Belgium.
A group of 310 Belgian forest workers was examined to assess the seroprevalence of anti-Borrelia IgG antibodies. Using principal component analysis and binary logistic regression, the joint effects of individual characteristics and environmental characteristics were examined.
Sixty-seven of the 310 workers were seropositive for Lyme disease (LD), leading to a seroprevalence of 21.6%. The seroprevalence was higher among forest workers visiting forests more frequently (P = 0.003) or who reported over 100 tick bites (P-value < 0.001). The intensity of tick bites and the use of protection measures against tick bites have a positive impact on LD seroprevalence while the quantity of shadow from trees at ground level had a negative one.
This study showed that forest workers are a population at risk for LD and, by extension, at risk for various tick-borne diseases. In addition to the role of the environment, our results also showed the importance of considering exposure when predicting the risk of infection by Bb.