New Bacteria Species Linked to Lyme Disease

March 7th 2016
Allison Gilchrist, Associate Editor
Allison Gilchrist, Associate Editor

Retail clinicians should know that more than 1 bacteria species could cause Lyme disease.

Retail clinicians should know that more than 1 bacteria species could cause Lyme disease.

In a recent study published inThe Lancet Infectious Diseases, scientists from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Mayo Clinic sought to determine whether a bacterium strain other thanBorrelia burgdorfericould cause Lyme disease.

The researchers tested routine clinical diagnostic specimens collected from patients at the Mayo Clinic between 2003 and 2014 and used polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

"Using a laboratory-developed test with a method called 'melting temperature analysis,' we detected 6 specimens that produced a PCR result that was clearly different fromB. burgdorferi," said author Bobbi Pritt, MD, director of the Clinical Parasitology Laboratory at Mayo Clinic, in a press release. "Mayo…has tested more than 100,000 patient samples from all 50 states over the past decade using our PCR assay, but we've only recently detected evidence ofB. mayonii.”

The findings have led the researchers to believe that the organism either just recently emerged in the upper Midwest or has existed at such low levels that it has evaded detection until now.

“This discovery adds another important piece of information to the complex picture of tickborne diseases,” stated CDC microbiologist Jeannine Petersen in a press release.

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in North America, and it is common for patients to visit retail clinics when they suspect that they’ve been bitten. Patients infected withB. mayoniiwill test positive for Lyme disease with the standard tests available at retail clinics.

Information available from the first 6 patients suggests that symptoms ofB. mayoniiare similar to those ofB. burgdorferiwith a few possible differences. For instance, in addition to fever, headache, and arthritis in later stages,B. mayoniiis associated with nausea and vomiting, diffuse rashes, and a higher concentration of bacteria in the blood.

Although the patients in the Mayo Clinic study all recovered using the typical antibiotic regimen for the more common Lyme strain, retail clinicians should be aware of the new strain. The CDC recommends that patients found to be infected withB. mayoniishould be treated with the antibiotic regimen outlined by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Retail clinicians can help patients reduce the risk of tick bites and tick-borne diseases by pointing them to the CDC recommendations, which include:

  • Avoiding wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Using insect repellent when outdoors.
  • Using products that contain permethrin on clothing.
  • Bathing or showering as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off or find ticks.
  • Examining outdoor gear and pets.

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