Scientists Discover Another Cause of Lyme Disease: Bacteria Borrelia mayonii

Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks and thought to be caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, but scientists have discovered another bacteria, Borrelia mayonii is also causing this disease and the symptoms are far worse than its predecessor. This particular strain or type of bacteria is believed to be carried by the black-legged deer tick, according to the CBS News.

The Daily Cardinal reports that this new form of Lyme disease gives concern to U.S. residents especially those living in the Midwest because that is the area where it has shown up. So far, only two states, Minnesota and Wisconsin, have been affected by this new strain of Lyme disease.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worked the Mayo Clinic and came across the different strain when they tested the blood of 9,000 people from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota who they suspected had Lyme disease between the years 2012 through 2014. However, during their tests, they discovered six of the people had something different in their DNA and it did not match the classic Lyme disease Borrelia burgdorferi.

The CDC reports that further blood testing was done from people who were suspected of having Lyme disease. The blood tested came from 43 states including the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region states where Lyme disease is prevalent. Out of the 100,000 plus patients tested, only 102 tested positive for the Borrelia mayonii bacteria.

Microbiologist Dr. Bobbi Pritt from the Mayo Clinic, one of the researchers involved in the testing and findings of the Borrelia mayonii, told what they discovered

The CDC and the IDSA recommends a Two-tier testing for Lyme, but that does not always detect whether a person has Lyme disease. Dr. Pritt of the Mayo Clinic said they could go a step further in their lab and offer PCR testing which is capable of detecting smaller amounts of the bacterial DNA.

“We detected this result which was positive, but it was clearly different from what we would have expected for Borrelia burgdorferi, which at that time was the only known cause of Lyme disease in the U.S.”

Unfortunately, Lyme disease is not easily detected and it remains hidden in about half the people, because it is not easily detected, even if they have, the person has the classic bull’s eye erythema migrans rash.

“Most cases of Lyme disease don’t have sufficient levels of bacteria to make PCR testing of blood a sensitive method for diagnosis.”

Borrelia mayonii bacteria cause different symptoms in people then the regular or classic Lyme disease. Oftentimes, people who were diagnosed with Lyme disease would have the bull’s eye pattern, but this new bacteria, does not always exhibit that pattern. Symptoms of Lyme disease caused by the Borrelia mayonii bacteria are different and more severe. Some symptoms are more complex and even frightening and often include vomiting, nausea, and diffuse or spotty rashes.

“One patient’s father said his son looked like a Dalmatian because of the spots all over him.”

Out of the half dozen people they discovered had Lyme disease caused by Borrelia mayonii bacteria, two of them were children. Three of the patients had “significant neurologic abnormalities” and five patients suffered from a fever but two people had an extremely high fever.

One case involved a young child, and the Lyme disease make the child almost impossible to wake. Another case was an adult patient who had symptoms of double vision, while a different patient suffered from symptoms of arthritis weeks later.

The same antibiotic, Doxycycline, used to treat the classic Lyme disease were given to patients with Borrelia mayonii and they have found it is effective in killing both species of bacteria. According to Dr. Pritt, everyone who had the new Lyme disease strain recovered, except the one with the symptoms of arthritis. This person has not been as lucky and continues to suffer with the problem.

The good news is the Borrelia mayonii bacterium is rare at this point and the ticks that carry Borrelia mayonii bacteria are few and far between.

Entomologists collected and tested 600 ticks found in Wisconsin and discovered that only 3 percent tested positive for the new species of Borrelia mayonii bacteria. While any percentage of ticks having this number seems large, it is not as significant as the tests that came back from ticks carrying the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which ranged from 30 to 40 percent of black-legged ticks tested.

Over 300,000 people living in the United States, test positive for lyne disease each year, with most of the cases coming from residents living in the Northeast and upper Midwest. Hikers are especially volunerable for this disease becaue they spend time in woods and along nature trails.

With the warm summer months approaching and people anxiously waiting to go outdoors for work or play, this new threat lurking in nature is something to be aware of so you can protect yourself, family and pets. It is important for everyone to take precautions to reduce their risk of Lyme disease and if you find a tick has attached itself, remove it immediately and place it in a plastic bag just in case symptoms begin to appear.

The CDC suggests that you stay out of woody or bushy areas where there is tall grass. When wandering on paths or trails, walk down the middle of them and keep away from the grassy areas. Apply insect repellents with DEET or permethrin on exposed skin or clothes when you go outside and they advise people to wear protective clothing when in these areas. When you come in from being outdoors, check for ticks on yourself, kids and pets and take a shower if possible to wash away any ticks that are not attached.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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