New Lyme Disease Bacteria Found

"This discovery adds another important piece of information to the complex picture of tickborne diseases in the United States," said Dr. Jeannine Petersen, a CDC microbiologist.

CDC announced Feb. 8 that, working with the Mayo Clinic and health officials from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, it has discovered a new species of bacteria (Borrelia mayonii) that causes Lyme disease in people. Previously, closely related Borrelia burgdorferi was the only species believed to cause the disease in North America.

So far, the new Lyme species has been found only in the upper Midwest.

"This discovery adds another important piece of information to the complex picture of tickborne diseases in the United States," said Dr. Jeannine Petersen, a CDC microbiologist.

According to the agency's release, scientists at the Mayo Clinic suspected the possibility of new bacteria after lab tests from six people with suspected Lyme disease produced unusual results. Additional genetic testing found the bacteria, according to the findings they have published in Lancet Infectious Diseases. Six among approximately 9,000 samples drawn from residents of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota with suspected Lyme disease between 2012 and 2014 were found to contain bacteria that were genetically distinct from B. burgdorferi. Scientists found the bacteria belonged to a previously unrecognized Borrelia species.

"Like B. burgdorferi, B. mayonii causes fever, headache, rash, and neck pain in the early stages of infection (days after exposure) and arthritis in later stages of infection (weeks after exposure). Unlike B. burgdorferi, however, B. mayonii is associated with nausea and vomiting, diffuse rashes (rather than a single so-called "bull's-eye" rash), and a higher concentration of bacteria in the blood," according to the release.

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