Bacteria in Lyme disease mapped

Excerpted from  ( Posted: 11/04/2010 )

MELVILLE, N.Y. — A Stony Brook scientist has helped map the genetic family tree of the bacterial strains that cause Lyme disease, a finding that raises hopes for faster diagnosis and new vaccines.

Dr. Benjamin Luft and colleagues have been on the trail of Lyme disease for years, aiming to discover why some people are affected by symptoms that last a few weeks, while others develop invasive infections that attack major organ systems. The mapping of more than a dozen bacterial strains moves science a step closer to finding out.

The availability of such precise genetic information is expected to help develop diagnostic tests sensitive to the exact strain that has caused a patient’s infection, said Luft, a professor of medicine at Stony Brook University’s medical school. He presented his research Oct. 11 in Washington, D.C., at the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

Of the varying strains, Luft said some cause only a skin rash, while others, which he characterized as more serious, “go into the blood stream and spread throughout.”

Lyme disease is the most frequently transmitted tick-borne infection in North America. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of severe forms of Lyme disease have been rising for two decades.

Luft said he believes the new genetic information eventually could play a role in the development of vaccines. One vaccine — the first against Lyme disease and developed before the findings were announced Oct. 12 — is slated for human trials in January.

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~ by Rob on November 7, 2010.

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