Scientists discover unnamed disease carried by deer ticks
Excerpted from REPUBLICANHERALD.COM: (04/06/2014)
A new, unnamed tick-borne disease has been found in the same bug that carries Lyme disease.
According to Tufts Now, a news site of Tufts University, Medford, Mass., scientists recently surveyed Borrelia miyamotoi bacteria floating in spinal fluid that caused the disease in an 80-year-old New Jersey woman.
The spiral bacteria, which caused the disease in the woman, who was treated with antibiotics and has since recovered, is said to look similar to spirochete bacteria that can cause Lyme disease.
Sam Telford, an expert on tick-borne diseases and a professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Global Health at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, told Tufts Now that researchers have known that the bacteria existed in the Northeast in deer ticks, but there was little data linking it to human disease until now.
B. miyamotoi was first found in ticks in Japan in 1995 and is closely related to the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The previous human cases of infections were found in Russia in 2011, Tufts Now said.
The Tufts scientists reported the first and only U.S. case of human B. miyamotoi infection, the New Jersey woman, in the New England Journal of Medicine in January.
Frank P. Snyder, Cressona, a state service forester who works for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, first heard about the bacteria in a forest resources email. He said Friday that he didn’t know much about the bacteria that causes the new disease, but is interested in knowing more about it.
“I think our forest pest division is going to be interested in that because we have a lot of employees that work outside,” Snyder said. “They get covered in ticks. I got several bites last year that I was concerned about.”
Although not much is known about the disease, researchers have estimated 12 to 18 percent of coastal New Englanders have been infected with the Lyme bacteria, called Borrelia burgdorferi, but only between 1 and 3 percent of people have likely been infected with its lesser-known cousin, B. miyamotoi.