Seeking out accurate Lyme Disease research can lead you into murky waters. There’s only a limited dialogue about the illness, making it easy for misinformation to spread. Because of the complexity of the condition, and lack of accurate testing, there have been few Lyme Disease related research breakthroughs. However, the CDC and Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., have teamed up and broken through this barrier.
A nationwide epidemic, Lyme Disease is the fastest growing vector-borne infectious disease in the United States. And, until now, it was thought that the Lyme infection was only transmitted through the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. But, Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered a new tick-borne bacteria that can cause the infection.
The new species has been provisionally named Borrelia mayoni, after the Mayo Clinic.
So far, six patients with the infection have been identified by researchers, all in the upper Midwest. These patients experienced similar symptoms as those diagnosed with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, but not exactly the same ones.
Because this discovery is new, typical diagnostic testing may miss those infected with this particular bacteria. It’s recommended that patients with tick exposure in Minnesota or Wisconsin undergo antibody and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing to detect Borrelia mayoni.
Since the symptoms differ from the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria physicians might not think to test patients for Lyme Disease. Only one of the six patients had the traditional bulls-eye rash associated with Lyme. Three other patients had a rash described as being more spread-out.
Typical symptoms of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria include fever, headache, and neck pain. The new strains add vomiting and nausea to this list. Borrelia mayoni patients also had a higher concentration of bacteria in their blood.
So, what does this mean for current and future Lyme Disease patients?
While more research needs to be done, Lyme Disease diagnostic testing tools all need to improve drastically. Current standard blood tests don’t account for all of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria strains, let alone any other possible carriers of the infection.
Lyme Disease patients often struggle to find proper care, meaning that physicians need to be made more Lyme-literate. All around, a larger conversation about the illness needs to be had.
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