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New Species Of Lyme Disease Causing Bacteria

Borrelia Mayonii

A new species of bacterium that causes Lyme disease has been discovered by Mayo Clinic scientists, in collaboration with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has been provisionally named Borrelia mayonii. Before the discovery, the only other species known to cause Lyme disease was an organism called Borrelia burgdorferi.

Lyme disease is transmitted to people via the bite of a black-legged tick called the deer tick. The disease leads to headache, rash, and neck pain. In severe cases it can lead to debiltating arthritis; it is treated with antibiotics. In recent years, the disease has spread considerably across the US, covering a larger geographical area.

The discovery came about after medical researchers examined samples from US patients taken during the period 2003 to 2014. For this, a molecular biology technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used. Of the samples screened, 6 of 9,000 samples, taken from residents of Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin, showed a different pattern.

These differences led to the discovery of the new organism – B. mayonii. Although the bacterium has probably been present for some time, it has hitherto escaped detection. As well as the classic Lyme disease symptoms, B. mayonii causes nausea and vomiting, and a different type of rash. In addition, for those infected, the concentration of bacteria in the blood is higher.

The research is published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases, in a paper titled ‘Identification of a novel pathogenic Borrelia species causing Lyme borreliosis with unusually high spirochaetaemia: a descriptive study.’

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.