Friday, July 4, 2014

Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases, Borrelia Miyamotoi Is an Emerging New Threat

Tick-borne infections are on the rise and can be difficult to diagnose. The telltale bulls-eye rash and antibody tests for Lyme disease can be reliable, but others, such as for the newly discovered Borrelia miyamotoi infections are not.


The tick season heightens in May, June, and July in the eastern and particularly in the Northeastern United States. In other parts of the country, the season varies depending on the regional extent of warm weather and humidly. In warm, humid climates, such as in Florida, ticks are a concern all year. In Southern New England, the warm late spring and humid summer months are a concern.

The concern is tick bites, not only from blacklegged ticks (deer ticks) and from brown dog ticks, which in the east are Lyme disease carriers, but also diseases from other species of ticks.

There are other concerns.

In the U.S., the geographical range of ticks and tick-borne diseases are changing. In California, for the first time researchers have found evidence of the tick-borne pathogen responsible for Lyme disease. It’s an important discovery because it had been previously perceived that Lyme disease was only found in the east and nonexistent in California. And Lyme disease, discovered in 1970 in Lyme, Connecticut has spread to every other state except Hawaii.

Tick-borne diseases can be difficult to diagnose because so many symptoms are in common. For example, Lyme disease symptoms are in common with Borrelia miyamotoi infections, which is a pathogen found in the blacklegged tick and a new infection first discovered in Japan in 1990, later in Russia in 2011, and in the U.S. in 2013.

Researchers at Yale University’s Schools of Public Health and Medicine are the first to study the frequency or extent of B. miyamotoi infections in Southern New England. Dr. Peter Krause, senior research scientist and lead author of the study said, “Although not as common as Lyme disease, the frequency of B. miyamotoi infection in southern New England appears to be comparable to that of other infections transmitted by the black-legged tick, such as anaplasmosis and babesiosis.”

Among the symptoms of tick-borne disease, B. miyamotoi does not reveal the telltale bull’s-eye rash of Lyme disease, nor does it show up in laboratory tests. As a result, without an effective test for detecting the newly identified infection, physicians often treat the infection as something other than Lyme disease.

The good news is there is a new antibiotic test for Borrelia miyamotoi. This means, with proper diagnosis, antibiotic treatment for the newly discovered infection can be appropriately prescribed.

Avoid contact with ticks to prevent Lyme disease, B. miyamotoi infections, or any tick-borne disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the best tick bite prevention includes avoiding ticks on your person, your pets, and in your backyard.

Know how to safely remove an embedded tick. When I was a child, a tick imbedded its head into my scalp. My uncle took a cigarette he was smoking and applied the lit end to the blood-engorged tick. Even though this is not the safe way to remove a tick, the tick did back out and everything was okay. However, if a tick were imbedded in your skin, it would be advisable to follow the CDC’s recommendation that “… a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick quite effectively.” Here’s how.

Copyright © 2014 Horatio Green


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