Tick-borne diseases reach epidemic levels, panel says

April 16, 2018 by Delthia Ricks, Newsday
Adult deer tick, Ixodes scapularis. Credit: Scott Bauer/public domain

Tick-borne infections have reached epidemic proportions on Long Island, where children are disproportionately affected by Lyme disease and other infections transmitted by the eight-legged creatures, a panel of top scientists announced recently.

"Lyme disease is mostly a disease of children and curiously mostly a disease of boys," Jorge Benach said at a recent symposium at Stony Brook University School of Medicine. Benach, who discovered the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, is a molecular geneticist at Stony Brook University School of Medicine.

His observation that Lyme disease is mostly an of children was corroborated by Dr. Christy Beneri, a pediatrician at Stony Brook Children's Hospital. She said her institution encountered a wide range of tick-borne illnesses annually and that boys tended to outnumber girls in the number of infections. The most likely reason for the disparity, Beneri said, is the tendency among boys to play outdoors in wooded areas where ticks thrive.

In the extensive pediatric research Beneri presented at the symposium was evidence of some children developing Bell's palsy, a temporary facial paralysis that occurs when the Lyme bacterium affects a cranial nerve. The paralysis resolves with antibiotic treatment, Beneri said.

Beyond the Lyme bacterium, ticks on Long Island have been found to harbor babesia and anaplasma.

Babesia are protozoa, or parasitic, infectious agents that hone in on red blood cells, similar to the way a malaria parasite invades the same cells.

Anaplasmosis is an infection caused by the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum. It can trigger aches, fever, chills and confusion.

Beneri and Benach were among five leading Stony Brook experts, including university president Dr. Samuel Stanley, who addressed what they described as a mounting epidemic of infections caused by the ever-expanding range of ticks. Stanley, who was the first speaker, is a specialist in infectious diseases.

"New York bears a disproportionate impact from tick-borne diseases," Stanley said at the symposium, which was held in a lecture hall in the university's health sciences building. "This is a regional and state problem."

New York has the highest number of confirmed Lyme cases nationwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has cataloged more than 95,000 Lyme infections in the state since 1986. Suffolk County has long been ground zero for the ailment on Long Island, studies consistently have shown.

"Cases in Suffolk County hover between 500 and 700 and this is just for the reported cases," Benach said, noting that Suffolk has among the highest rates of many tick-transmitted infections because of the dense infiltration of the insects in county.

Typical Lyme symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans, said Dr. Luis Marcos, a specialist in internal medicine and infectious diseases.

Marcos presented data showing the wide range of illnesses caused by ticks throughout the region, including Borrelia miyamotoi, a corkscrew-shaped bacterium identified in recent years as the cause of a relapsing fever.

Dr. Eric Spitzer, a pathologist, discussed the many laboratory tests that Stony Brook used to arrive at a diagnosis of a tick-transmitted illness. He said that for years, doctors nationwide sent specimens to the university for analysis because of its well-known precision. Testing of those specimens earned the university $32 million over a 20-year period, he said.

Panelists identified the most prevalent ticks on Long Island as the American dog tick; the invasive lone star tick, which migrated from Southern states; and the blacklegged tick, known as deer tick.

Explore further: Scientists uncover details on the rise of a tick-borne disease on Long Island

Related Stories

Scientists uncover details on the rise of a tick-borne disease on Long Island

April 20, 2017
Scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health report elevated levels of a pathogen responsible for the tick-borne disease babesiosis in Suffolk County, ...

First multiplex test for tick-borne diseases

February 16, 2018
A new blood test called the Tick-Borne Disease Serochip (TBD Serochip) promises to revolutionize the diagnosis of tick-borne disease by offering a single test to identify and distinguish between Borrelia burgdorferi, the ...

Study suggests expanded range for emerging tick-borne disease

February 16, 2018
Human cases of Borrelia miyamotoi, a tick-borne infection with some similarities to Lyme disease, were discovered in the eastern United States less than a decade ago. Now new research led by the Yale School of Public Health ...

Lone star ticks not guilty in spread of Lyme disease

January 31, 2018
Not all ticks are alike—particularly when it comes to their role in spreading Lyme disease.

How a tick gut gene serves as a gateway for Lyme disease

August 7, 2017
The bacterium that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, may have some help from a gene found in the guts of infected ticks, according to a new study led by Yale researchers and published in Nature Communications.

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

Researchers seek vaccine for 'traveler's diarrhea'

September 25, 2018
Every year, millions of people have vacations and business trips ruined when they succumb to "traveler's diarrhea" during their journeys. A major cause of traveler's diarrhea is bacteria called Enterotoxigenic E. coli, or ...

New way of determining treatment for staph infections cuts antibiotic use

September 25, 2018
Using a clinical checklist to identify eligible patients, doctors were able to shorten the antibiotic duration for patients with uncomplicated staphylococcal bloodstream infections by nearly two days, Duke Health researchers ...

Breakthrough in designing a better Salmonella vaccine

September 24, 2018
UC Davis researchers announce in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week a breakthrough in understanding which cells afford optimal protection against Salmonella infection—a critical step in developing ...

Antifungal agent found to be possible treatment for porphyria

September 24, 2018
A large team of researchers from Spain, France and the U.S. has found that a common antifungal agent might be useful as a treatment for a rare type of porphyria. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational ...

New findings on the muscle disease Laing early-onset distal myopathy

September 24, 2018
New avenues are now being opened toward treatment of Laing distal myopathy, a rare disorder that causes atrophy of the muscles in the feet, hands and elsewhere. In a study published in the journal PNAS, researchers have identified ...

Insulin shows great potential against chronic colitis

September 24, 2018
Diabetes is not the only disease on which insulin has an effect, it appears. In a new study using tests on mice, researchers from the University of Copenhagen, among others, have discovered a new method for treating chronic ...

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.