A study at the Sahlgrenska Academy interviewed 92 people in Västra Götaland who were diagnosed with tuberculosis encephalitis between 1997 and 2017. They had significantly more problems with memory, concentration, initiative, and motivation than the individuals in a control group with whom they were compared.
“They can set alarms on their cell phones and write notes about themselves,” says Malin Veje, who wrote a dissertation on the study.
Patients with TBE also talked about other remnants of symptoms, such as headaches or reduced fine motor skills, balance and coordination.
“I had patients who have a much worse sense of position and can no longer go out into the woods,” says Malin Veje.
Tired despite sleeping
In another part of the study, sleep in TBE patients was compared with a control group. The sleep patterns were roughly equivalent. But people with TBE were more tired.
“There is something that means that if you have TBE, the brain is affected and half of poor sleep affects more than if you did not have TBE,” says Malin Veje.
Some people who have had TBE are on sick leave long after the inflammation. But many do not think they are particularly “bad”.
– Patients with TBE were often very ill. They are often grateful that they have done much better and do not think it is so dangerous that they have some symptoms left, says Malin Veje.
The immune system – a culprit
The body’s own immune system is thought to contribute to the problems, as does covid-19.
“To a large extent, it is probably the immune system reaction that makes patients sick,” says Malin Veje.
Another similarity with covid-19 is that TBE can be found by PCR, shows a third of the study in Sahlgrenska. But the test is not done in the airways, but in blood, spinal fluid or urine.
Previously, the diagnosis was made by tests that looked for antibodies. PCR testing can cause TBE to be detected earlier in the procedure.
Tuberculosis can be prevented with vaccines. According to Malin Veje, there are no statistics on the number of Swedes vaccinated, but the number of doses sold is growing steadily.
The number varies
The number of TBE cases in Sweden varies considerably. Last year, 260 new cases were reported, according to statistics from the Swedish Public Health Service. In the years 2017–19, the number ranged between 350 and 380, which was higher than before. In 2014, only 176 new cases were reported.
One explanation given is that most tick larvae survive when there are many small rodents, such as bullets and mice, that act as larvae hosts.
Micke Larsson / TT
TBE means “tick-borne encephalitis”.
This is encephalitis caused by the encephalitis virus. This is transmitted, by ticks, from small mammals to humans.
The first signs of illness are observed 1-2 weeks after infection. The disease begins with fever.
There is no known cure.
In Sweden, TBE is most common in the Baltic Sea region and around Lake Vättern and Lake Vänern. But the disease has spread to the west coast and is spreading to large parts of southern and central Sweden.
Most cases in Sweden get sick in the summer.
Source: NE, Sahlgrenska Academy