Jan 17 U.S. scientists have discovered a new
deer tick-borne disease in humans, with the viral-like illness
sharing similarities both with Lyme disease and relapsing fever
The as-yet unnamed ailment is one of five caused by the
Borrelia miyamotoi pathogen carried by blacklegged ticks, said
Dr. Peter Krause, senior research scientist at Yale School of
Public Health and lead author of a study published in the New
England Journal of Medicine on Thursday.
A distant relative of Lyme, the bacterium was first found in
ticks in Japan in 1995, and then was identified by Yale
researchers in Connecticut in 2001 and again in Russia in 2011,
the study said. The illness also can resemble another disease
caused by a bacterium in the Borrelia family transmitted by
ticks and body lice that is marked by repeated episodes of
The study published Thursday by Yale, New York Medical
College and other institutions is the first to describe the
unique type of Borrelia bacterium that causes the disease and to
detail its symptoms.
The study said blood tests identified Borrelia miyamotoi in
18 human patients in southern New England and neighboring New
York in recent years. Symptoms of the resulting illness can
include fever, muscular aches and pains, headaches and fatigue,
with a small portion also developing a rash such as with Lyme
One complication experienced by multiple patients, however,
was repeated episodes of fever - a significant difference from
what has been reported by people diagnosed with Lyme disease,
"We think that if this organism is untreated it probably
would lead to relapsing fever," Krause said in a phone
The new study found that patients who were not treated with
antibiotics after a first bout of fever could see their body
temperature spike again after a week or two.
Drugs such as doxycycline and amoxicillin, effective in
combating Lyme disease, seem to clear symptoms and the
infection, Krause said.
Borrelia bacteria are found wherever deer ticks and Lyme
disease are found, with most occurring in the U.S. Northeast and
the northern Midwest. Ticks infected with the bacteria also were
found in the far western United States, he added.
The disease tends to occur in late spring, summer or early
autumn, and experts say that lab testing is required to confirm
The bacterium differs from some other similar types,
including Ehrlichia, which were discovered in Minnesota and
Wisconsin in 2011 and also causes flu-like symptoms, Krause
said. That type of Ehrlichia has not yet been seen in the
eastern United States.
(Reporting by Zach Howard; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Phil