UNF Finds More Lyme

Suncoast News

Pasco Press


Published: May 20, 2014 | Updated: May 20, 2014 at 12:41 PM

JACKSONVILLE— Kerry Clark, associate professor

of public health at the University of North Florida,

and his colleagues have found additional cases

of Lyme disease in patients from several states

in the Southeastern U.S.

These cases include two additional Lyme disease

Borrelia species identified in patients in Florida and Georgia.

Overall, 42 percent of 215 patients from Southern

states tested positive for some Lyme Borrelia species.

More than 90 cases of Lyme infection were confirmed

among patients from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina,

Texas and Virginia. Of these Southern cases, 69 percent

were found to have infection with B. burgdorferi,

22 percent with B. americana and 3 percent with B. andersonii.

“For years, medical practitioners and the public have been

told that Lyme disease is rare to nonexistent in the

Southern United States. Our earlier research

demonstrated that Lyme disease bacteria were

present in animals and ticks in our region,” said Clark.

“The more recent evidence shows that the disease

is also present in human patients in the South,

and suggests that it's common among patients

presenting with signs and symptoms consistent

with the clinical presentation of Lyme disease

recognized in the northeastern part of the country.”

His paper, “Geographical and Genospecies Distribution

of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato DNA Detected in

Humans in the USA,” was published in the Journal

of Medical Microbiology in February. Brian Leydet of

the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the

Louisiana State University School of Veterinary

Medicine and Clifford Threlkeld, a pathologist with

Ameripath Central Florida, in Ocala, collaborated

with Clark in his latest research.

The findings are significant for several reasons. They:

♦ Provide additional evidence that multiple Lyme

Borrelia species are associated with human

disease in the U.S., similar to the situation in Europe.

♦ Expand the geographic area in which Lyme disease

should be considered by medical providers and citizens alike.

♦ Suggest that human cases of Lyme disease in the

Southern U.S. may be much more common than

previously recognized.

Prior to Clark's previously published paper in

2013, only one or two Lyme bacterial species,

Borrelia burgdorferi and B. bissettii, were

recognized to cause disease in North America.

Current testing methods and interpretation criteria,

designed to detect just one species, B. burgdorferi,

may explain many of the complaints involving the

unreliability of Lyme disease tests in the U.S.

Most of the patients included in Clark's study were

suffering from a variety of chronic health problems,

such as fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain

and cognitive dysfunction. As a result, Clark's research

may help millions of chronically ill people living in areas

where Lyme disease wasn't previously recognized.

Called “The New Great Imitator,” Lyme disease is often

mistaken for illnesses such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome,

lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Lou Gehrig's disease,

Parkinson's, ADHD and even Alzheimer's.

Clark's research is supported in part by funding from the Florida

Lyme Disease Association, formerly the Northeast Florida Lyme

Association; Georgia Lyme Disease Association; and the Alabama

Lyme Disease Association. Additionally, he has received multiple

research project grants from UNF in support of his Lyme disease


“These groups have been significant in raising funds to support

my research over the past several years. Without their support,

I wouldn't be able to continue this work. This shows that community

groups and scientists can collaborate effectively to create

changes to improve public health, both locally and regionally,” said Clark.