An "endemic" of allergy to pigeon ticks (Argas reflexus) after removal of dovecotes

R. Spiewak1, W. Szostak1, K. Kubicka2, D. Ciura2, M. Lundberg3, S. G. O. Johannson3, A. Buczek2

1Instytut Medycyny Wsi, Occupational Biohazards, Lublin, Poland; 2Medical Academy, Department of Biology and Medical Parasitology, Lublin, Poland; 3Karolinska Institutet, Clinical Immunology, Stockholm, Sweden

Source: Spiewak R, Szostak W, Kubicka K, Ciura D, Lundberg M, Johannson SGO, Buczek A. An "endemic" of allergy to pigeon ticks (Argas reflexus) after removal of dovecotes. In: van Wijk RG et al. (Eds.). XXIII EAACI Congress, Amsterdam, 12-16 June 2004. Abstract Book: 157.


Background:Pigeon ticks are ectoparasites that feed almost exclusively on birds. However, if devoid of their natural host, they eventually may attack humans. Sometimes this leads to allergy. In the province of Silesia (southern Poland), pigeon breeding has been a very popular hobby. Recently, for sanitary reasons many house owners remove dovecotes from house attics. Nine residents of such houses experienced allergic problems, which they associated with appearance of some "bugs" in their flats. Acarological examination revealed Argas reflexus.

Methods: The patients underwent routine allergy examination. Furthermore, skin prick tests (SPT) and determination of sIgE (UniCAP) were carried out with allergenic extract made of ticks collected on-site.

Results: In 2 of 9 symptomatic persons, causes of health problems other than ticks were identified. Findings in remaining 7 patients and in 6 controls (residents of same houses without health problems) are shown in Table 1. The difference between both groups supports the causal role of A. reflexus allergens.

Conclusion: Pigeon ticks are capable of attacking and sensitising people. This may be provoked by removal of dovecotes without proper eradication of the ticks.

Table 1. Tick-related symptoms and allergological findings.

Group Symptomatic Controls
Number of persons 7 6
Skin symptoms 7 0
Asthma and rhinitis 1 0
Positive SPT with A. reflexus 6 1
Detectable A. reflexus-sIgE 3 0

Final article


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Final version of this paper was published as: Spiewak R, Lundberg M, Johansson SGO, Buczek A. Allergy to pigeon tick (Argas reflexus) in Upper Silesia, Poland. Ann Agric Environ Med 2006; 13 (1): 107-112.

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Document created: 6 May 2004, last updated: 1 September 2006.