Since 2017, CiTIQUE has been a participatory research program coordinated by INRAE. It involves citizens to learn more about the ecology of ticks and related diseases, including Lyme disease, in order to improve the prevention of the risks associated with tick bites.
Any citizen can report tick bites on himself or on an animal. On May 18, CiTIQUE launched the new, more ergonomic and more precise version of the “Tick Signaling” application to map the risk of a tick bite in France.
One of the objectives of CiTIQUE is to collect data on the geographic distribution of tick bites and the pathogens they transport in France, according to the environment, weather and seasons. CiTIQUE brings together researchers and citizens of all ages, at all stages of the program, to collect this data. It relies on a wide network of partners involving scientists, professionals from different sectors, public and educational actors, and associations. A network of volunteers has also organized around the Permanent Center for Environmental Initiatives Nancy Champenoux, facilitating partner of CiTIQUE, to support and promote this program.
“Tick Alert” is a free application that lets scientists quickly know of the existence and ecological conditions of tick bites, whether they are spotted on humans or animals, via a smartphone or computer.
The first version, developed in 2017 in partnership with the Ministry of Solidarity and Health, has already enabled the identification of more than 23,500 bites throughout France and the dispatch of more than 20,000 ticks to the laboratory All Researchers from the INRAE Grand Est-Nancy Center where they are archived in the first and only French participatory ticket library. This new version, more practical for users and researchers, was developed thanks to a collection of donations from the Groupama Foundation to overcome rare diseases.
In this new version, users can create several profiles within the same account, for future bite reports. For example, a family can save the profiles of parents, children and pets on a single account. The bite log keeps track of the history of its reports. In addition, thanks to the application, users benefit from information on prevention and post-bite monitoring. It is also possible to report an injection “offline” because the application transmits the report once the internet connection is recovered.
For researchers, the new application is in direct link with new software developed to manage the database of bite and tick reports archived in the CiTIQUE program’s library. A 6-digit identification number links each tick to the information given by users when they report a bite: date, body area bitten, number of ticks implanted, place of bite, type of environment, reason for presence at the bite site (walk, work, etc.), photo of the bite and / or tick. For scientists, benefiting from and the sample of the tick responsible for the bite, and the context of the bite, greatly increases the information useful for advancing research. Information and associated tick samples in the library are made available to the national and international scientific community.
The first results
Thanks to a strong citizen mobilization, in three years CiTIQUE has been able to draw up a first national mapping of tick bite reports, which is intended to be further enriched thanks to the reports to come. The data already collected made it possible to confirm the periods most at risk: spring and autumn. Analysis of the infectious content of ticks has shown a wide geographic distribution of the bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi) responsible for Lyme disease in mainland France: around 15% of the ticks analyzed throughout the territory carry this bacterium.
Another important result, a third of the bites takes place in private gardens or public parks, which requires rethinking prevention in these familiar spaces where people are reluctant to strictly follow the individual prevention measures recommended for outings in the forest. . Finally, the researchers noted that the increase in reports of bites in dogs and cats begins 3 to 4 weeks before the increase in reports in humans. These animals could therefore constitute good sentinels to assess the risk of a tick bite in humans.
Ticks reported and analyzed by citizens
Since March 2019, the ticks reported via the application and sent to the CiTIQUE program have been analyzed by citizens and middle and high school students alongside researchers, during internships in a research laboratory open to the public, the All Researchers laboratory of the INRAE Grand Est-Nancy center.
A dozen two- to three-day research internships enabled 288 volunteer citizens to participate in all stages of the scientific process. With the researchers, the citizens constructed the research questions and carried out experiments and analyzes on ticks that bit cats and dogs, the question of the risk that these pets represent for their owners being regularly raised by citizens. These citizen-researchers thus identified 401 ticks and analyzed the infectious content of 118 ticks. This is the first time that results of morphological identification of ticks and analyzes of infectious agents by molecular biology have been generated by citizens and students, who contribute from stage to stage to enrich scientific knowledge.
Download the app
For Android: https://www.citique.fr/android
For Iphone: https://www.citique.fr/ios