Coppe Labs Reports Powassan Virus in Deer Ticks Across the State of Wisconsin

Ticks can carry both Lyme and Powassan Virus

A new research study conducted by Coppe Laboratories indicates ticks are carrying both Lyme and Powassan simultaneously.

WAUKESHA, WISCONSIN. – June 1, 2017 – A new study from Coppe Laboratories demonstrates that Powassan virus can be found in deer ticks collected from across the State at frequencies close to 5% in Lyme endemic areas. These newly published results (Vector Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, describe work performed between September 2011 through June 2015 on ticks from across Wisconsin provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and civilian volunteers. The ticks were removed from clothing, skin and family pets. Coppe Laboratories analyzed these ticks for the presence of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterial agent that causes Lyme disease, and Powassan virus, a tick-transmitted virus in the same family as Zika and West Nile viruses.

Powassan virus is transmitted by the same tick that transmits Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Although symptoms of Powassan virus infection resemble those of Lyme disease in early infection, the virus does not respond to antibiotic therapy. The virus can be transmitted from ticks to humans within just 15 minutes of attachment.

In the study, Borrelia burgdorferi was detected in an average of 24% of ticks in some regions, consistent with previous data reported for Wisconsin. In the regions of the state showing high levels of Lyme Borrelia, Powassan virus was also found in an average of 4.7% of the deer ticks, with the distribution of Powassan positive ticks closely mirroring the Wisconsin counties reporting confirmed cases of encephalitis or suspected Powassan exposure. The data led the authors to conclude, “Powassan virus infection without encephalitis is likely in humans and the frequency, clinical presentation and outcomes of infection are grossly under-studied. Of special concern is the potential for both the Lyme bacteria and Powassan Virus to be transmitted to humans with the bite of a single tick, as 50% of single ticks were found to carry both infectious agents. The clinical features and long- term consequences of concurrent infection with Lyme bacteria and Powassan virus are unknown.”

Dr. Konstance Knox, CEO of Coppe Laboratories stated that “An estimated 15% of Lyme disease patients continue to have symptoms following the recommended course of antibiotics. Powassan virus testing in these patients might provide additional answers to the long-term symptomatology. Our goal with these studies was to gain some insight into the true incidence of Powassan virus in Wisconsin ticks, which directly impacts the number of Powassan virus infections in the state.”

Facts about Powassan Virus

  • The Powassan virus incubation period (time from tick bite to onset of symptoms) ranges from one week to one month.
  • Common symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, stiff neck and in more serious cases, seizures, speech difficulty and loss of coordination.
  • Powassan virus can infect the central nervous system, resulting in severe neuroinvasive disease: encephalitis and meningitis.
  • About 50% of patients who experience Powassan virus encephalitis have permanent neurological symptoms, such as recurring headaches, muscle weakness and memory problems.
  • Approximately 10% of Powassan virus encephalitis cases are fatal.
  • The CDC has noted that Powassan virus risk is present in the same areas where Lyme disease is prevalent.
  • Coppe Laboratories is the only commercial laboratory that provides Powassan virus direct and serologic testing, in addition to multiple genospecies Lyme testing. More information.

About Coppe Laboratories

Coppe Laboratories is a highly specialized, CLIA-certified diagnostic laboratory providing a spectrum of laboratory tests, including the only commercially available tests for Powassan virus, in both direct, and indirect methods with an emphasis on the interaction between infection and immunity. Their mission is to eliminate barriers experienced by physicians and patients by converting scientific research tools into innovative diagnostic tests.

About Coppe Laboratories

Coppe Laboratories is a contract research organization and a CLIA-certified reference laboratory in Waukesha, Wisconsin (USA) specializing in research and diagnostics for emerging viral diseases. Since its founding in 2012, Coppe has delivered unparalleled clinical lab service to academic and children’s hospitals, integrative medicine specialists, and clinical research centers nationwide. Our scientists provide custom contract research services, designing essential experiments and providing preliminary data in support of biotech and pharmaceutical industries worldwide.

View all posts by Coppe Laboratories