Lyme disease has already affected 14% of the world's population

Lyme disease has already affected 14% of the world’s population


According to a recent meta-study that compiles various research on the subject, more than one in ten people worldwide have already contracted Lyme disease. It is moreover more present in Europe and concerns a lot of men over 50 living in rural areas.

Central Europe is the most affected area

Lyme disease (or Lyme borreliosis) is transmitted through the bite of a tick infected with Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. Although the infection often causes no symptoms and is not contagious, the disease can sometimes be debilitating, causing partial paralysis of the limbs and joint pain for long periods of time.

On June 13, 2022, researchers from the Institute of Tropical Medicine at Kunming University (China) published a meta-study on the subject in the journal BMJ Global Health. Their conclusion is clear: about 14% of the world’s population has already had Lyme disease. In addition, the highest infection rate concerns Central Europe with 20% and the risks concern more men over 50 living in rural areas.

Apart from Central Europe, the regions most concerned are East Asia (15.9%), Western Europe (13.5%) and Eastern Europe (10. 4%). Moreover, the least affected area is none other than the Caribbean (only 2%).

Increasing prevalence due to global warming

The goal of this meta-study was to show how common Lyme disease is around the world. This search selected 137 studies out of a possible 4,196 and pooled data from 89 of them. These data concerned 160,000 participants, 14.5% of whom had antibodies in their blood whose role is to fight the famous bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.

It should also be noted that previous research had shown that the prevalence of tick-borne diseases increased by 50% in just twelve years. This increase is linked to global warming, which leads to longer and drier summers and warmer winters. This promotes more frequent contact between ticks and our pets as well as livestock.

However, the data from this meta-study may be biased. Indeed, Lyme disease is endemic, so the authorities of the most affected countries are better able to carry out antibody tests, which is therefore less the case in less affected countries.