Health Alert!


New Tick Borne Disease Discovered

Fall 2011- The Lyme Disease Education and Support Groups of Maryland would like to update healthcare providers and the public regarding a newly discovered disease found in ticks that also carry Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi). The inability of commercial tests to detect the new infection is of concern, as is the fact that a curative treatment protocol, if one exists, has yet to be established.

Borrelia miyamotoi, reported in Japan in 1995, causes a prolonged, relapsing bacterial infection in humans that may last for months. The organism has been detected in ticks, animals and humans across the United States, especially along the Atlantic flyways, and seven different countries, including Canada. US researchers report Borrelia miyamotoi was seen frequently in ticks carrying Lyme disease, and the presence of multiple genotypes of Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), even in the same tick, were also noted.

Similar to Lyme disease, Borrelia miyamotoi is characterized by a flu-like illness, headache, chills, fatigue, vomiting, myalgias, neck stiffness, and a high fever. Only 9% of study participants reported a rash. Additional symptoms can include ocular, neurologic, respiratory, cardiac, and pregnancy complications associated with relapsing fevers.

As the fall hunting season approaches, it is important to note the University of Tennessee reported 58% of the turkeys harvested in 2009 tested positive for B. miyamotoi, with a higher percentage of organisms detected in tissue than blood. Fisheries and Wildlife at University of Michigan have also detected the organism it its wildlife. Borrelia miyamotoi has also been found in NY, RI, NJ, CT, and CA. The responsible bacteria appear to be readily passed between generations of ticks, without requiring deer as hosts to sustain its life cycle.

Researchers in the United States report it is possible that “some prolonged episodes of illness attributed to Lyme disease and designated as "chronic Lyme disease" are due to B. miyamotoi infection.” Patients may remain undiagnosed because the disease can, like Lyme disease, be confused with any number of illnesses (MS, Parkinson’s, ALS, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, etc), including infections caused by any of the 300+ known strains of Borrelia that may or may not cause serious human or animal disease.

The number of identifiable vector-borne pathogens is steadily increasing, however, many of the resulting diseases are undetectable, as there are currently no commercial tests available. Various species, strains and genotypes of Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Bartonellosis, Q-fever, Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness (STARI- Borrelia lonestari), viral infections, Tularemia, Brucellosis, Parvo B-19, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) have been detected in patients, pets and wildlife in Maryland, with a growing number of patients being found to be multiply coinfected.

A new RMSF-like organism, Rickettesia amblyommii, was discovered in Maryland ticks (2008) by US Army researchers at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Cases of Babesiosis, responsible for a growing number of blood-transfusion deaths, is caused by Babesia microti and what was once thought to be a “west-coast” strain of Babesia (Babesia duncani). Both are increasing in Maryland.

For more information on tick & vector borne diseases, please visit Contact Person: Lucy Barnes, Lyme Disease Education and Support Groups of Maryland.

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