Scientists Discover New Bacteria that Causes Lyme Disease
The new species, carried by deer ticks, has so far been found in Minnesota and Wisconsin
While most of the Americas had their eye on the Zika virus, a brand new disease-causing pathogen snuck onto the scene in the United States. The novel bacteria species, called Borrelia mayonii for the time being, was recently discovered to cause Lyme disease. Previously, all Lyme cases were thought to be caused by Borrelia burgdoreri. Both strains are transmitted through the bites of deer ticks.
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According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) press release, Mayo Clinic scientists got the first hints of the new bacteria when blood samples from six people, among samples taken from some 9,000 residents of Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota suspected to have Lyme disease, showed unusual results. Detective work in the form of genetic testing found the new bacteria is similar to, but distinct from, B. burgdorferi.
Symptoms of Lyme disease caused by the newly discovered strain may differ slightly from those caused by the other bacteria. Symptoms both share include fever, headache, rash and neck pain in the early stages and arthritis in later stages. Symptoms caused by the new strain may include nausea, vomiting, diffuse rashes and a higher concentration of bacteria in the blood.
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At the moment, this new bacteria appears limited to the upper part of the midwestern United States. Current Lyme tests should detect Lyme disease caused by either strain of the bacteria. Standard antibiotics successfully treated the cases identified as being caused by B. mayonii according to the CDC.
“This discovery adds another important piece of information to the complex picture of tickborne diseases in the United States,” said Jeannine Petersen, PhD, a microbiologist at the CDC. The findings were published in Lancet Infectious Diseases.
Reduce your risk of tick bites by following this advice from the CDC:
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Use insect repellent when outdoors.
- Use products that contain permethrin on clothing.
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off and more easily find ticks.
- Conduct a full-body tick check after spending time outdoors.
- Examine gear and pets, as ticks can come into the home on these and later attach to people.
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