Scientists Discover Tick-Borne Disease

Scientists have recently discovered an infectious disease — similar to lyme — that is spread by deer-ticks and endemic to New England.

The infectious organism “Borrelia Miyamotoi” is named after a japanese researcher who discovered it in a tick in 1995. Six years later, a Yale doctor found the same bacteria in the Northeast and Midwest of the U.S. — carried on the same deer-ticks that transmit Lyme disease. In the last couple years, scientists have identified human cases of the disease caused by the bacteria – and this month, they published research about two cases in New Jersey and Massachusetts. Yale researcher Peter Krause helped uncover the disease — which can have symptoms similar to Lyme, including relapsing fevers and neurological problems, though not the same level of joint pain. Krause thinks “Borrelia Miyamotoi” has probably been infecting people, undetected, for centuries.

“People probably had fevers, they thought they had a virus. People probably thought they had Lyme disease,” he says. “That’s the likely scenario.”

As part of his general research, Krause has been collecting blood samples for twenty years from people in Rhode Island and Western Massachusetts. After re-testing those samples recently for Borrelia Miyamotoi, he estimates that one percent of the population in tick-heavy areas carry the organism, compared to 6 or 7 percent who test positive for Lyme.

“People should not be freaked out because it probably is going to be fewer people will get infected with this,” he says. “Secondly, the complications seem to be not terribly frequent and maybe only occuring in people who are immuno-compromised, though we don’t know that for sure.”

Krause says it’s important that doctors who suspect a tick-born disease start to test for both Lyme and Barrelia Miyamotoi.  He says both respond to the same antibiotics.