The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, working with the
Mayo Clinic and health officials from Minnesota, Wisconsin and North
Dakota, discovered the new bacteria, called Borrelia mayonii, the
CDC said in a statement.
Previously, only one bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, was believed to
cause human Lyme disease, which is transmitted through bites from by
the blacklegged "deer" tick, the CDC statement said.
The new bacteria has so far only been detected in the upper Midwest
region of the United States, the CDC said.
Researchers discovered Borrelia mayonii after studying blood samples
of patients in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota who were
suspected of having Lyme disease from 2012-2014, the CDC said.
Samples from six out of 9,000 patients showed "unusual results" and
prompted further study, the health agency said.
The newly discovered bacteria is similar to Borrelia burgdorferi in
that it initially causes fever, headache, rash, and neck pain and
later arthritis associated with Lyme disease, according to the CDC.
But Borrelia mayonii adds nausea, vomiting and widespread rash, and
causes a higher concentration of bacteria in the blood, the CDC
There are an estimated 300,000 cases of Lyme disease in the U.S.
annually, according to the CDC. The disease is rarely fatal, and
most patients recover after a few weeks of oral antibiotics, the
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The patients infected with the new bacteria were treated
successfully with the same antibiotics used for those with Borrelia
burgdorferi, the CDC said.
It is too early to say whether the newly discovered bacteria will be
more or less dangerous than Borrelia burgdorferi, said Jeannine
Petersen, a CDC microbiologist.
"We have fairly limited information in that our study described six
patients," she told Reuters. "We need more patients in order to
capture the full spectrum of those who might have less severe
symptoms and those who might have more severe ones."
It is likely that the bacteria is a "recently emerged" organism
since it did not appear in previous, extensive testing of blood
samples of patients suspected of having Lyme disease, Peterson
(Editing by Karen Brooks and Marguerita Choy)
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