UNF Finds More Lyme
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
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.