Lyme Disease is a common life-altering threat in Massachusetts with our heavy deer tick population. Due to celebrity cases coming under the spotlight the last few years, most of us are quite familiar with Lyme Disease, it’s symptoms, treatments and potential life altering effects. Lyme Disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. This year, scientists have discovered a new strain of Borrelia called Borrelia mayonii. The bacteria was found in the northern Midwest and can lead to symptoms similar to but slightly different than Lyme Disease. These slight variations could lead to misdiagnosis. Scientists would like patients with variations in Lyme symptoms to receive polymerase chain reaction testing to detect which bacteria is causing the symptoms.
Symptoms of the New Lyme Disease – B. mayonii
One of the biggest differences between B. burgdorferi infection and B. mayonii infection is the absence of the typical Lyme bulls-eye rash. Only 1 of 6 B. mayonii patients had the characteristic rash while 3 others had a rash that was more spread out. The other key difference is the new strain adds vomiting and nausea to the list of symptoms. B. mayonii patients have also shown to have a higher concentration of the bacteria in their blood.
Symptoms that are found in both B. burgdorferi and B. mayoniiinclude headaches, fever and neck pain. B. mayonii also can lead to arthritis in later stages of the infection Similarly to Lyme Disease, B. mayonii is also transmitted by the bite of an infected black-legged tick, more commonly known as the deer tick.
Is B. mayonii in Massachusetts?
The CDC reports that B. mayonii is so far limited to the upper Midwest. They also report that from 2012-2014 only 6 of approximately 9,000 samples from suspected Lyme Disease patients in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota showed the new species of bacteria. They also tested 25,000 other samples from 43 other states, including the Northeast, none of which contained the B. mayonii strain. All of that being said, where deer ticks are, diseases they carry can follow. With the number of deer ticks in our area, I can only imagine it is just a matter of time before this rare bacteria strain makes its way into Southern Massachusetts.