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New Species of Lyme Disease Bacteria Discovered

The discovery of a new species of bacteria (Borrelia mayonii) that causes Lyme disease was recently reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with Mayo Clinic and state health officials.

Until now, only one other species, Borrelia burgdorferi, was believed to cause Lyme disease in North America. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., first suspected the possibility of new bacteria after lab tests from six people produced unusual results, according to findings published in Lancet Infectious Diseases. The discovery adds an important piece of information for scientists studying the complex nature of tickborne-diseases in the United States.

B. mayonii is believed to be transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected blacklegged (or “deer”) tick. Likely exposure sites for patients in the study are north central Minnesota and western Wisconsin. The evidence suggests distribution of B. mayonii is limited to the upper mid-western U.S. It has not been found in approximately 25,000 blood samples taken from residents of 43 other states with suspected tickborne disease, including states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region where Lyme disease is common.

Similar to B. burgdorferi, B. mayonii causes fever, headache, rash and neck pain in the early stages of infection (days after exposure) and arthritis in later stages of infection (weeks after exposure). Unlike B. burgdorferi, however, B. mayonii is associated with nausea and vomiting, diffuse rashes (rather than a single so-called “bull’s-eye” rash) and a higher concentration of bacteria in the blood. Physicians have successfully treated patients infected with B. mayonii with a two to four-week course of doxycycline. Amoxicillin, ceftriaxone and cefuroxime have also been used, the CDC reports.

To learn more, visit the CDC’s Borrelia mayonii webpage.

For an updated version of our fact sheet on ticks click here.