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Tick-borne diseases and climate change

Climate change and tick-borne diseases: A One Health approach in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan


TCC3W White logo.png

The TCC-3W (Tick-borne and Climate Change - 3 West) project is a One Health initiative that is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The project aims to improve the evidence base and response capacity to address the impacts of climate change on tick-borne diseases in Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan. As climate change begins to influence ecosystems around the world there are increased risks that certain types of ticks may become more abdunant or migrate into new regions and carry pathogens along with them that negatively impact humans, domestic animals, and wildlife. The primary goals of the project are to: 1) improve surveillance of ticks and tick borne diseases; 2) develop data models to explore the potential impact of climate on tick distribution and abundance and the occurrence of tick borne diseases; and 3) to enhance communication and collaboration across disciplines, agencies, and stakeholders in Alberta, BC, and Saskatchewan. This is a 3 year project and is led by the BC Centre for Disease Control in partnership with ten other organizations across Canada.

What is One Health? 

"One Health is a collaborative, multisectoral, and trans-disciplinary approach - working at local, regional, national, and global levels - to achieve optimal health and well-being outcomes by recognizing the interconnections between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment" 

- US One Health Commission

How does climate change impact tick and tick-borne diseases?

The abundance and distribution of ticks are influenced by temperature, precipitation, and vector host factors. Climate change can affect tick range and abundance due to alterations in environmental factors but it may also influence human and animal behaviour, which, in turn, may increase their exposure risks to tick borne diseases. 




Overview

 
Existing evidence indicates the rate and distribution of tick-borne diseases in British Columbia varies from other parts of Canada due to climatic, landscape, tick- and pathogen-related factors. Human cases of locally-acquired Lyme disease have remained low in BC for over a decade. The extent and distribution of other human and animal tick-borne pathogens is not well described in BC as they are not reportable diseases. Passive tick surveillance in BC has been conducted for over 20 years and data both from passive surveillance activities combined with prior active tick surveillance efforts, have been incorporated into ecological niche models. This one health project will help us explore other sources of tick and tick-borne disease data (e.g. animal tick-borne disease data, citizen science tick surveillance, ticks in wildlife, genomics of tick-borne pathogen), identify surveillance gaps and opportunities, and assess and apply different modelling approaches to understand the role of climate change in the distribution and abundance of tick-borne pathogens in BC.  The partners involved in this project from multiple disciplines from across Western Canada provides a valuable opportunity to exchange information and collaborate on shared challenges. In summary, this project will improve our evidence base on tick-borne disease risks in BC in relation to various climate change scenarios. Project findings will inform tick-borne disease-related policies, programs, and knowledge translation activities in British Columbia.
 

Historically, parts of Alberta have provided suitable habitats for Dermacentor ticks. Dermacentor albipictus (winter tick) is commonly found on wild ungulates and horses. It has been associated with die offs in moose. Dermacentor andersoni (wood tick) can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia to humans and animals, and anaplasmosis to cattle and wild ruminants. However, tick-borne disease has been uncommon in humans and animals in Alberta. Ixodes spp. ticks (black-legged tick), that are capable of transmitting Lyme disease, are occasionally found in Alberta but they are thought to be brought in by migrating birds or through travel with pets or other animals to endemic areas in Central and Eastern Canada, Southern British Columbia, and the North Eastern United States. No evidence of  stablished Ixodes spp. tick populations has been found in Alberta. Passive tick surveillance has been conducted in Alberta through voluntary tick submission by concerned persons for fifteen years. Through this project, a review of surveillance programs and related data will inform future tick surveillance strategies. In addition, models to predict tick distribution based on ecological niche modelling will inform decision makers about potential changes in the presence of ticks and tick borne disease in Alberta associated with a variety of climate change scenarios. 

 

Passive tick surveillance has been in place in Saskatchewan since 2008. The majority (over 96%) of ticks submitted in Saskatchewan over the years have been the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis). The number of black legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) submitted remains very low at just under 0.30% from 2017 onwards. A total of 78 black-legged ticks were submitted between 2008 and 2019: 10 were positive for the bacterium that causes Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), and there has been only one known human case of Lyme disease in Saskatchewan acquired locally. The benefits of this joint human and animal tick surveillance project involving Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia include a more complete understanding of the distribution of established and introduced tick species within western Canada that affect humans and animals, and further information on the tick-borne pathogens carried by Ixodes and other tick species. It will also contribute to our understanding of how the tick populations and the pathogens they carry may change with further climate change; for example, we have already seen westward displacement of the Rocky Mountain wood tick by the American dog tick, and northward shifts in tick ranges. This project has provided an excellent opportunity for the human health and animal health sectors to come together in Saskatchewan, and for Saskatchewan to collaborate with the same teams in both Alberta and British Columbia.

 
 


Partners


‎Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)

TCC-3W is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada 


IDEXX Laboratories 

IDEXX Laboratories provides the TCC-3W project with animal tick data for all three provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan.


Canadian Lyme Disease Resource Network (CLyDRN)

p-leighton-grezosp.jpgPatrick Leighton is Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Montreal, and an active member of the Epidemiology of Zoonoses and Public Health Research Group (GREZOSP).  His research focuses on the ecology of wildlife diseases that are transmissible to humans, and in particular the impact of ecological change on the epidemiology of these diseases and the risk they pose to public health. He co-developed and co-directs the University of Montreal's Master's Programs in One Health and Veterinary Public Health. 


University of Guelph

180721-100_8x10.jpgKatie Clow is an Assistant Professor in One Health in the Department of Population Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. Her research focuses on the ecology and epidemiology of vectors and vector-borne zoonoses, with a specific emphasis on the blacklegged tick and Lyme disease.

‎BC Centre for Disease Control


Erin F 1.jpgErin Fraser is a public health veterinarian at the BC Centre for Disease Control.  She is a graduate of the University of Guelph and has over 20 years of experience as an epidemiologist, public health veterinarian, researcher, and executive director.  She has ten years of leadership experience co-founding and managing Veterinarians without Borders – Canada. She has worked across Canada and internationally with interdisciplinary, multicultural teams to develop programs and projects that address public and animal health issues from zoonotic disease surveillance, prevention, detection, and control, to wildlife health, food security, and factors that affect livelihoods.  Her current work at the BCCDC includes surveillance of zoonotic diseases and foodborne pathogens, antimicrobial resistance in companion animals, and climate change and tickborne diseases.  


Hattaw.jpgHattaw Khalid is a Project Coordinator with the BC Centre for Disease Control. Hattaw completed her BSc. in Global Health and MPH from the University of Manchester where she explored the effectiveness of social marketing on antimicrobial stewardship.


morshed - Copy.jpgMuhammad Morshed is a clinical microbiologist and the program head of zoonotic diseases, emerging pathogens and parasitology at the BCCDC Laboratory. He is also a clinical professor in the UBC Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. Dr Morshed received his PhD from the Yamaguchi University School of Medicine (Japan) in 1994. He completed his specialty training at the Research Institute of Tuberculosis in Tokyo and at the College of Natural Resources, University of California (Berkeley).


Sunny Mak is a Medical Geographer with the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).  He uses geographic information systems (GIS) mapping and spatial analysis to support disease surveillance, outbreak investigations and research. His research expertise includes the development of spatial risk models for vector-borne (e.g. Lyme disease and West Nile virus) and environmental diseases. Sunny received his BA and MSc in Geography from the University of British Columbia.


otterstatter.jpgMichael Otterstatter is a senior scientist and epidemiologist at BCCDC. He is also an assistant clinical professor in the UBC School of Population & Public Health. Michael holds a doctorate from the University of Toronto (2007), as well as MSc (2001) and BSc (1998) degrees from the University of Calgary.


David Patrick-2.jpgDavid Patrick is Director of Research and the medical epidemiology lead for antimicrobial resistance at the BCCDC and a professor in the UBC School of Population and Public Health. David is a respected public health leader, researcher and educator with expertise in epidemiology and infectious diseases. He was awarded the Cortland Mackenzie Prize for Excellence in Teaching and the James M. Robinson Award for Contributions to Public Health.


Eleni Galanis-2_1000.jpgEleni Galanis is a physician epidemiologist at BCCDC. She is also a clinical associate professor in the UBC School of Population & Public Health. Eleni obtained her medical degree from the Université de Sherbrooke in 1995 and a master of public health from Harvard University in 1998. She trained in family medicine and community medicine at the University of Toronto, and trained in field epidemiology.


Mayank Singal is a Physician Epidemiologist at the BC Centre for Disease Control, where he leads the vector-borne and zoonotics diseases portfolio.


Stephanie Dion is the Public Health Manager for the Communicable Diseases and Immunization Service Line at the BC Centre for Disease Control. 



Centre for Coastal Health

Carl Ribble


Theresa Headshots 2019Smaller.jpgTheresa Burns is a veterinary epidemiologist (DVM, MSc, PhD). Over her career, Theresa has had the opportunity to use methods from multiple disciplines to understand complex issues at the interface of human-animal-environmental health in Canada and in other countries.  She is very interested in fully understanding systems and stakeholder perspectives in order to develop real-world solutions to complex problems.  


Ministry of Land and Resources

Helen Schwantje

Cait Bio.jpgCait Nelson 
is a Wildlife Health Biologist with the BC Wildlife Health Program, based in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. She joined the BC Wildlife Health Program in 2006 and now leads priority disease surveillance programs such as Chronic Wasting Disease and Bovine Tuberculosis. Cait is dedicated to working with researchers, agencies, stakeholders, First Nations and the general public to ensure that these groups have access to current and accurate facts on priority wildlife health issues.


Ministry of Agriculture


Ministry of Health


University of Calgary


Bio photos Susan C.jpgSusan Cork joined the University of Calgary, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in 2008 as founding Head of the Department of Ecosystem and Public Health. Prior to joining the faculty, Susan spent five years with the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture where she held a number of policy and management positions. She completed her Veterinary degree (Massey University) in 1987 and returned to complete a PhD in 1994. During her PhD she provided diagnostic support for wildlife organizations in partnership with the New Zealand Department of Conservation. In 1995, Dr Cork accepted the position of veterinary diagnostic laboratory manager in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, this was part of a European Union (EU) funded project to strengthen veterinary services in Asia. Her research interests include global health, infectious diseases and veterinary public health.

Isabelle C.jpgIsabelle Couloigner, Fr.Ing, PhD, is a Research Associate in Spatial Analytics/Modelling both at the department of Geography and of Ecosystem and Public Health at the University of Calgary. She received her Engineering diploma from École Louis de Broglie (France) and her PhD from École des Mines de Paris / Université de Nice-Sophia Antipolis (France). She was a Faculty member in the department of Geomatics at the University of Calgary for 8 years before going into geomatics consulting and private teaching. She is an expert in geospatial analytics working with Remote Sensing, GIS and ground-based data for urban and environmental monitoring/modelling. She uses different Image Processing toolbox/software (e.g. Matlab, IDL/ENVI), ESRI ArcGIS and R software for geospatial data analysis and modelling.


Alberta Health Services

IMG_0315 (1) - Copy.JPGSylvia Checkley graduated from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) at the University of Saskatchewan and worked in a busy rural community veterinary practice for eight years as an associate and then co-owner. She then completed a PhD in epidemiology at WCVM and went to work in animal surveillance and disease investigation at the Food Safety Division of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. Sylvia has been at the University of Calgary, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine since 2009, where her research is focused on One Health approaches to surveillance and investigation of complex problems at the interface of humans, animals and their environment, like ticks and tick-borne diseases.  


Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge Research and Development Centre

Shaun Dergousoff

‎Roy Romanow Labs

Amanda L.jpgAmanda Lang is a Clinical Microbiologist for the Saskatchewan Health Authority at the Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory. She completed her education (BSc and PhD) in Saskatchewan at the University of Saskatchewan studying vaccine development for Salmonella, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in Halifax, Nova Scotia working on clinical diagnostics and surveillance for Influenza and Streptococcus pneumoniae. After that Amanda spent 2 years in Papua New Guinea at the Institute for Medical Research as a senior research fellow working on emerging viral diseases and etiology of pneumonia, and then returned to Halifax for clinical microbiology training. After her training was complete, she landed back in Saskatchewan as a Clinical Microbiologist and specialize in virology and zoonotic diseases.


University of Regina 

Andrew Cameron, Associate Professor, Department of Biology, University of Regina; co-director of the Institute for Microbial Systems and Society Andrew is a microbial geneticist specializing in the development of new DNA sequencing and genomic analysis tools to detect pathogens in the environment, animals, and people. The Cameron lab conducts genome analysis to discover new potential pathogens and pathogen diversity in projects across North America and Africa. Another focus of the lab is to understand how the ranges of environmental and zoonotic pathogens are expanding or contracting due to climate change.  The Cameron lab is working as part of the TCC-3W team to improve the molecular detection of zoonotic pathogens, to sequence pathogen genomes, and to understand pathogen diversity. 


University of Saskatchewan

NateVideoImageScreenshot_2019-12-03_19-20-01.pngNathaniel Osgood serves as Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Associate Faculty in the Department of Community Health & Epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan. His research is focused on providing cross-linked simulation, mHealth, and inference tools to inform understanding of population health trends and health policy tradeoffs. Prior to joining the University of Saskatchewan faculty, he graduated from MIT with a PhD in Computer Science in 1999, served as a Senior Lecturer at MIT and worked for a number of years in a variety of academic, consulting and industry positions.


Western College of Veterinary Medicine

Emily J.jpgEmily Jenkins is a Joint Coordinator (with M. Voordouw) of Saskatchewan e-Tick surveillance from 2019 to present. She is also the coordinator of Saskatchewan Health passive tick surveillance at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), and the Head of the Zoonotic Parasite Research Unit at WCVM. She is also a member of CLyDRN (Canadian Lyme Disease Research Network). Emily's research is focused on vector borne diseases in their wildlife reservoirs, and dogs as sentinels of VBDz.


Maarten V.jpgMaarten Voordouw is an assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Microbiology at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. From 2011 to 2018 he was an assistant professor in the Institute of Biology at the University of Neuchâtel in Neuchâtel, Switzerland where his research was focussed on the ecology of Lyme disease. At the University of Saskatchewan, one of his main research interests is understanding how the Lyme disease causative agent, Borrelia burgdorferi, maintains its genetic diversity in nature. 


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