New findings about the bacterium that causes Lyme disease could lead to new strategies to reduce infections and resulting chronic illness, according to research published in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by a spirochete (spiral shaped bacterium) known as Borrelia burgdorferi and is most commonly spread by ticks. Despite the infectious agent and mode of transmission being known for over three decades the cases of Lyme disease are continuing to climb. The highest rates are seen in the Northeastern United States but many people from different regions and countries also suffer from the disease.
The most obvious sign of initial Lyme disease infection is a chracteristic rash around a tick bite known as Erythema migrans, or a "bullseye" rash, so named because it is circular and red around the outside with a pale centre. Symptoms of the disease are multiple, ranging from fatigue, weakness and headache, to cognitive, mood, and neurological disorders. The large number and systemic nature of symptoms has contributed to controversy. Some experts say Lyme disease is acute and easily treated with a relatively short course of antibiotics, while others suggest a chronic form may develop. Certainly there are no shortage of individuals who suffer chronic symptoms following Lyme infection - many become severely debilitated, losing jobs and relationships.