Researchers identify new Borrelia species that causes Lyme disease

February 8, 2016
Until now, Borrelia burgdorferi was only species believed to cause Lyme disease in North America

Mayo Clinic researchers, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and health officials from Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin, have discovered a new bacterial species that causes Lyme disease in people. The new species has been provisionally named Borrelia mayonii. Prior to this finding, the only species believed to cause Lyme disease in North America was Borrelia burgdorferi.

In the paper published recently in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Mayo Clinic scientists tested samples from U.S. patients from 2003 to 2014 for evidence of Lyme disease using a method called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). From 2012 to 2014, the researchers noticed unusual test results from 6 of 9,000 samples from residents of Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

"Using a laboratory-developed test with a method called 'melting temperature analysis,' we detected six specimens that produced a PCR result that was clearly different from B. burgdorferi," says Bobbi Pritt, M.D., director of the Clinical Parasitology Laboratory at Mayo Clinic who is first author of the study. "Mayo Medical Laboratories, the reference laboratory at Mayo, has tested more than 100,000 patient samples from all 50 states over the past decade using our PCR assay, but we've only recently detected evidence of B. mayonii."

Based on these findings, the researchers believe that the organism may have only recently emerged in the upper Midwestern U.S. "It is possible that this species has been present for even longer but at such low levels that it escaped detection," adds Dr. Pritt.

As with B. burgdorferi, researchers believe that B. mayonii is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected black-legged tick (otherwise known as the deer tick). Typical symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, rash, neck pain, and arthritis in later stages. Unlike B. burgdorferi, however, B. mayonii causes an illness that appears to be associated with nausea and vomiting, diffuse rashes (rather than a single bull's-eye rash), and a higher concentration of bacteria in the blood.

Patients infected with B. mayonii will test positive for Lyme disease with currently available U.S. Food and Drug Administration-cleared Lyme disease tests. In some instances, B. mayonii bacteria also may be seen on a blood smear. "Specific identification of the organism can be made by using the Mayo Clinic PCR test, which detects the DNA of the Lyme disease bacteria," notes Dr. Pritt.

For treatment, the patients described in the study fully recovered using antibiotics commonly used to treat Lyme disease caused by B. burgdorferi. The CDC recommends that health care providers who are caring for patients infected with B. mayonii also follow the antibiotic regimen described by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Dr. Pritt adds, "At this time, there is no evidence that B. mayonii is present outside of the Upper Midwest. However, the public should continue to take the recommended precautions against tick bites, as Lyme and other tick-borne diseases are well-established in much of the Northeast."

Explore further: Ticks that vector Lyme disease move west into North Dakota

More information: Bobbi S Pritt et al. Identification of a novel pathogenic Borrelia species causing Lyme borreliosis with unusually high spirochaetaemia: a descriptive study, The Lancet Infectious Diseases (2016). DOI: 10.1016/S1473-3099(15)00464-8

Related Stories

Ticks that vector Lyme disease move west into North Dakota

September 11, 2014
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, there are more than 300,000 cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. each year. Last year, most Lyme disease cases reported to the CDC were concentrated heavily in the Northeast ...

'Water on the knee' could be early sign of Lyme disease

November 1, 2015
Spontaneous knee effusion, also known as "water on the knee," can be a primary symptom of Lyme disease, even when patients do not exhibit a "bull's eye" rash, another common Lyme disease symptom. According to a literature ...

Deer tick bacteria DNA in joint fluid not reliable marker of active lyme arthritis

May 17, 2011
New research shows that polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for Borrelia burgdorferi DNA—the spirochetal bacteria transmitted by deer ticks—in joint fluid may confirm the diagnosis of Lyme arthritis, but is ...

Mayo Clinic finds new bacterium causing tick-borne illness ehrlichiosis in Wisconsin and Minnesota

August 4, 2011
A new tick-borne bacterium infecting humans with ehrlichiosis has been discovered in Wisconsin and Minnesota. It was identified as a new strain of bacteria through DNA testing conducted at Mayo Clinic. The findings appear ...

Tick season starting early this year

April 23, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Tick season has started earlier than normal due to the mild winter, which means hikers, gardeners and others who love the outdoors should take precautions to prevent becoming a meal for ticks, an expert says.

New tick-borne disease discovered

September 20, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Yale School of Public Health researchers in collaboration with Russian scientists have discovered a new tick-borne bacterium that might be causing disease in the United States and elsewhere. Their findings ...

Recommended for you

Anti-malaria drug shows promise as Zika virus treatment

November 17, 2017
A new collaborative study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) and UC San Diego School of Medicine has found that a medication used to prevent and treat malaria may also be effective ...

Decrease in sunshine, increase in Rickets

November 17, 2017
A University of Toronto student and professor have teamed up to discover that Britain's increasing cloudiness during the summer could be an important reason for the mysterious increase in Rickets among British children over ...

Scientists identify biomarkers that indicate likelihood of survival in infected patients

November 17, 2017
Scientists have identified a set of biomarkers that indicate which patients infected with the Ebola virus are most at risk of dying from the disease.

Research team unlocks secrets of Ebola

November 16, 2017
In a comprehensive and complex molecular study of blood samples from Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, published today (Nov. 16, 2017) in Cell Host and Microbe, a scientific team led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison has ...

Study raises possibility of naturally acquired immunity against Zika virus

November 16, 2017
Birth defects in babies born infected with Zika virus remain a major health concern. Now, scientists suggest the possibility that some women in high-risk Zika regions may already be protected and not know it.

A structural clue to attacking malaria's 'Achilles heel'

November 16, 2017
Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and PATH's Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) have shed light on how the human immune system recognizes the malaria parasite though investigation of antibodies generated ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.