Banovic et al.
Evidence of tick-borne encephalitis virus neutralizing antibodies in Serbian individuals exposed to tick bites.
Front. Microbiol. 2023;14:1314538. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2023.1314538

TBE is a notifiable disease in Serbia since 2004. There is however a limited awareness about this disease among physicians and the Serbian population.

A prospective observational study has been conducted to assess the exposure to TBE virus in the Serbian population and to identify risk groups and high-incidence areas. From 2019 to 2021, serum samples were collected from patients with tick infestation (at least four weeks later) and were analyzed for TBE and West Nile virus neutralizing antibodies.

Most of the ticks removed from the patients were Ixodes ricinus (432/450), some were Dermacentor marginatus, Rhipicephalus sanguineus or Haemaphysalis punctata.

A total of 3/450 sera had TBE neutralizing antibodies (with no WNF antibodies). These individuals had been infested with I. ricinus and had not been immunized with TBE or Yellow Fever vaccine. Suspected locations of tick infestation were Fruska Gora Mountain (already known as TBE endemic), Divcibare Mountain and Bukulja Mountain.

The authors concluded that the identification of exposure in these regions highlights the urgency of implementing active TBE surveillance programs to assess the true burden of TBE and to implement preventive measures.

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