BACKGROUND: Tick-borne diseases are an important cause of human morbidity and mortality in the United States. The past several decades have witnessed an increase in both the number of recognized tick-borne pathogens and the number of tick-borne disease cases, whereas tick surveys have revealed substantial geographic expansions of tick populations throughout the country. Multiple laboratory testing options exist for diagnosis of tick-borne diseases, including serology, microscopy, and molecular-based methods. The preferred approach varies by the specific disease, locally available test options, and the stage of illness at patient presentation. Accurate and timely detection of tick-borne illness is of utmost importance, as prompt treatment is strongly linked to better outcomes. CONTENT: This review covers the clinical manifestations and preferred diagnostic approaches for important bacterial, viral, and parasitic tick-borne diseases in the United States, including Lyme disease, tick-borne relapsing fever, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, spotted fever rickettsioses, and babesiosis. Infection with emerging pathogens such as Borrelia miyamotoi, Powassan virus, Heartland virus, Colorado tick fever virus, and Bourbon virus are also covered. SUMMARY: Our understanding of tick-borne diseases in the United States continues to improve with the detection of novel pathogens and development of new diagnostic modalities. While conventional diagnostic methods, including serology and microscopy, will play an ongoing role in the diagnosis of tick-borne diseases, implementation of advanced molecular diagnostics will further broaden our understanding of these diseases by facilitating detection of emerging pathogens and providing more accurate and timely diagnosis.
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