The tick-borne Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, continues to be one of the most problematic infections in the United States, ranking fifth in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) list of nationally notifiable diseases.
The recent infection of well-known public figures such as music artist Avril Lavigne and fashion model Bella Hadid has helped brought much needed attention to the spread of the debilitating disease.
While Lyme disease remains an imminent threat to public health, scientists have discovered a new infectious disease that shares similar symptoms to Lyme borreliosis.
The new illness is caused by the bacteria known as Borrelia miyamotoi and has been found to be more resistant to antibiotic treatment. It is also transmitted through insect bites from ticks.
"We know this new disease, caused by the recently identified bacteria Borrelia miyamotoi is in the U.K.," Stella Huyshe-Shires, a representative from the group Lyme Disease Action, said.
"To date it has only been found in a handful of ticks, but it will sound alarm bells."
Huyshe-Shires explained that the new disease can be mistaken as influenza or other forms of infection. This raises the possibility of patients not receiving proper treatment for the illness.
According to studies by the CDC, infection caused by the Borrelia miyamotoi bacteria bares similar symptoms to those brought on by Lyme disease. These include fever, headache, muscle pain and fatigue.
People afflicted by the new disease typically do not show any rashes on their body, making it difficult for doctors to easily diagnose the infection.
Transmission and Diagnosis
Scientists have yet to identify exactly how the Borrelia miyamotoi disease is spread from one carrier to another, but it is generally believed that the bacteria are borne by ticks. It is likely that infection is transmitted when they feed on the blood of other animals, including humans.
Unlike Lyme disease, the new infection cannot be diagnosed through blood tests. Doctors use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing to identify potential cases of the disease.
People infected with the Borrelia miyamotoi bacteria receive treatment using antibiotics, which often takes around two to four weeks to complete.
Photo: John Tann | Flickr