New Lyme Disease-Causing Bacteria Discovered

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In collaboration with the Mayo Clinic and health officials in North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported they discovered a new bacteria species that can cause Lyme disease in people.

Previously, Borrelia burgdorferi was thought to be the only species to cause Lyme disease in people. Scientists from the Mayo Clinic suspected a new bacteria after encountering unusual results from test from six people with suspected Lyme disease.

They performed additional genetic testing at the CDC and Mayo Clinic, and found a bacteria they are calling Borrelia mayonii that is related closely to Borrelia burgdorferi.

The discovery adds to the complex picture of Lyme disease, a tick-borne disease, in the United States.

The illness caused by B. mayonii appears similar to that caused by B. burgdorferi, based on the information gathered from the first six patients. There were a few possible differences. Both bacteria cause headache, rash, fever, and neck pain within days of exposure, as well as arthritis later. B. mayonii, unlike B. burgdorferi, is associated with vomiting and nausea, a higher concentration of bacteria in the blood, and diffuse rashes.

The researchers believe both species of bacteria are transmitted by bites of infected deer ticks, also known as blacklegged ticks. B. mayonii was identified in deer ticks in two counties in Wisconsin

This species of bacteria was found when six of 9,000 samples of suspected Lyme disease were found to have genetically distinct bacteria from B. burgdorferi. Scientists analyzed the DNA and determined they belonged to a previously unknown Borrelia species.

The evidence so far suggests the new species is limited to the upper Midwest and it has not been identified among any of the 25,000 blood samples from 43 other states.

The results from these six cases suggest patients who are infected with B. mayonii will be diagnosed with Lyme disease with the FDA’s current tests.

To specific identify this organism, scientists can use polymerase chain reaction assays. These detect the DNA of bacteria.

The six patients mentioned in the report were cured with antibiotics typically used to treat Lyme disease.

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