Lyme Disease: Tick-Borne Infection Deserving More Attention

Excerpted from  the Santa Barbara Independent  ( Posted: 05/25/2011 ) 

A tick bite may seem harmless enough, but it can give a person Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne disease in the U.S. and a dangerous disease if untreated. Lyme disease can be particularly difficult to diagnose in California because it’s unexpected, delaying essential treatment. May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and as more people enjoying the outdoors will be coming into contact with ticks, it’s a good time to learn about this often overlooked disease.

In California, western black-legged ticks can carry bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi. When a bacteria-laden tick bites a person, bacteria can be transmitted and give the person Lyme disease. In some California areas, the number of ticks carrying B. burgdorferi “can be up to 10 percent,” although it’s often much lower, explained Professor Cherie Briggs at the University of California, Santa Barbara, whose group studies Lyme disease in California.

“In California, we have the ticks, we have the bacteria, and we have some species of hosts that are really good at transmitting it,” said Briggs. But Californians have a factor that may be making infections less common: lizards. Lizards host 90 percent of Californian ticks. They’re so important to tick survival, Briggs and collaborators reported in a recent study published by the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, that when lizards were removed from an area, there were far fewer ticks the next year. And all those lizards “are really cool because not only do they never transmit Lyme disease, but they’re also cleansing the ticks of Lyme disease. It is pretty unusual.” When bitten, they actually kill the B. burgdorferi bacteria in the ticks.

For the complete article:

~ by Rob on May 25, 2011.

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