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Ticks Are Spreading Diseases Other than Lyme

Update Date: Jul 20, 2013 11:52 AM EDT

When the warmth of summertime rolls around, so do the menacing little pests, such as mosquitos and ticks. Even though these insects are around all year, due to increased outdoor activities, these bugs seem to be much more abundant during these warmer temperatures. Now, at around this time of the year, people have to be extra careful about protecting themselves from these pests because they can carry nasty diseases. According to recent reports, ticks appear to be spreading an unknown disease that resembles Lyme but with fewer symptoms.

So far there have been some reported cases of an infection spread by ticks that is very similar to Lyme. The infection, one of five new newly discovered tick related diseases, is caused by the bacterium called Borrelia miyamotoi. Although the infection does not have a medical name yet, researchers recently described the new disease in their study. The researchers looked at two patients who suffered tick bites and had Lyme disease symptoms. However, when they did not respond to the common antibiotic treatment for Lyme, doxycycline, the researchers knew that they were dealing with a different type of infection. This report was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The infection in question is caused by Borrelia miyamotoi, which is around five to 10 times more rare than Lyme disease. Although the two tick-borne illnesses share very similar symptoms to Lyme, one distinctive symptom is that people with Borrelia miyamotoi can have fevers relapse after they were resolved initially.  Medical professionals and researchers state that Borrelia miyamotoi is characterized by fever, muscle pain and headaches. People with this infection also will not respond to the antibiotics after 24 hours.

"I think we will definitely see more of it because up to now, people haven't even known about it. I think that now that they know about it they can look for it," explained Dr. Peter Krause, a senior research scientist from the department of epidemiology and public health at Yale School of Medicine. "It is the very beginning of this disease in humans. We can't really say now that there is more now than there used to be, because there used to be no cases. I guess you can call it emerging, because there was nothing and now we have something, but it has been found in humans and it is another disease we have to track."

Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that doctors should expect an increase in this new infection in areas where Lyme disease and ticks are common. However, the infection is still considered to be extremely rare. In this study, researchers analyzed 18 people from south New England and in the New York region that all tested positive for this bacterium. The first ever case of Borrelia miyamotoi was documented in Japan 2011.

Researchers and medical professionals acknowledged the fact that people could have been diagnosed with Lyme disease when they were actually suffering Borrelia miyamotoi. Since no one knew about the bacterium, a mix up could have happened for months or years. Now, researchers are studying the bacterium and its potential effects on human health.

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