Wednesday, January 23, 2013

New Borrelia on the block

From the LA Times last week:
New Lyme disease-like infection is on the map in U.S.

There a new tick-transmitted spirochete in town, and this wily relative of the organism that causes Lyme disease is probably sickening more than 4,300 Americans a year with relapsing fevers and flu-like symptoms, according to a new report. The good news: A round of common antibiotics appears capable of vanquishing the newly discovered threat.

The organism, called Borrelia miyamotoi, was discovered in 1995 in Japan, but it was not until 2011 that disease hunters found and described evidence that it was making people sick in Central Russia. The organism was found in deer ticks in Connecticut in 2001 and in Northern California in 2006. So it was only a matter of time before the illness it causes was detected in American patients.

That time has come. The New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday published two reports documenting its arrival on U.S. shores. One is a case study of a confused and unsteady elderly woman stricken by Borrelia miyamotoi; the other reports on a broad sampling of blood from patients in New England, where Lyme disease is widespread, and suggests that Borrelia miyamotoi infection "may be prevalent in areas where Lyme disease is endemic in the United States."

The NEJM papers are:
Meningoencephalitis from Borrelia miyamotoi in an Immunocompromised Patient
We report a case of progressive mental deterioration in an older, immunocompromised patient, and even though Koch's postulates were not met, we posit B. miyamotoi as the cause, owing to its direct detection in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) with the use of microscopy and a polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR) assay.
Human Borrelia miyamotoi Infection in the United States
The identification of B. miyamotoi antibody in 18 of our study patients, including seroconversion associated with symptoms in 3 patients, suggests that B. miyamotoi infection may be prevalent in areas where Lyme disease is endemic in the United States.

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