New Lyme Disease Causing Bacteria Identified in US: CDC

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Feb 09, 2016 05:30 AM EST

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in cooperation with Mayo Clinic and health officials from Wisconsin, North Dakota and Minnesota found that the bacteria called Borrelia mayonii can cause Lyme disease in humans.

According to the press release, prior to the discovery, there was only one known type of bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi that causes the disease.

The discovery was made after the researchers noticed unusual lab tests from six people who were suspected to have Lyme disease. They found out that the two bacteria are closely related.

"This discovery adds another important piece of information to the complex picture of tickborne diseases in the United States," said Dr. Jeannine Petersen, a microbiologist at CDC.

Details on the new strain of bacteria are published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases. According to US News & World Report, the B. mayonii causes similar symptoms as the B. burgdorferi as infected people can experience neck pain, rash, arthritis, fever, and headache. However, no patients have died from the new bacteria but two had to be hospitalized.

However, the rash caused by the newly discovered bacteria does not cause the typical "bull's-eye" mark but rather it looks like it spreads out more. Those with more bacteria in the blood are the ones that were infected by the new bacteria.

According to the researchers, the new strain of bacteria is currently only found in the upper Midwest United States including north central Minnesota and western Wisconsin. They believe it is cased by the bite of an infected deer tick. They note that those who were infected with the new strain can be treated with the same antibiotics used for the first strain.

"The researchers believe that, like B. burgdorferi, B. mayonii is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected blacklegged (or "deer") tick. B. mayonii has been identified in blacklegged ticks collected in at least two counties in northwestern Wisconsin," according to the press release. "The likely exposure sites for the patients described in Lancet Infectious Diseases are in north central Minnesota and western Wisconsin. It is highly likely, however, that infected ticks are found throughout both states."

Peterson told Reuters that it is yet unclear if the B. mayonii is more dangerous than the original Lyme disease bacteria.

"We have fairly limited information in that our study described six patients," she said. "We need more patients in order to capture the full spectrum of those who might have less severe symptoms and those who might have more severe ones."

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