A newly published Yale University study implicates deer ticks in a new, still-unnamed illness affecting 18 people in New England and New York. Ten years ago, researchers confirmed that deer ticks, or blacklegged ticks, carry the Borrelia miyamotoi bacterium, which is a close relative of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium that causes Lyme disease. But until recently, scientists had not confirmed that Borrelia miyamotoi could cause human infections.
Blood tests confirmed the presence of Borrelia miyamotoi in one-fifth of the 14 patients with unexplained summertime illness characterized by fevers. The bacterium was also present in 3% of 273 patients known or suspected to have Lyme disease, and in 1% of 584 patients not believed to have Lyme disease, but who lived in Lyme endemic areas.
The symptoms of the Borrelia miyamotoi-caused infection are similar to those associated with Lyme disease. The new illness is often accompanied by a relapsing fever. Dr. Peter Krause, senior research scientist at the School of Public Health and primary author of the study, reports that the new illness would be treated in the same way as Lyme disease, with antibiotic therapy.
Of course, prevention is always the best treatment for tick-borne disease. Be sure to take precautions to avoid tick bites when outdoors, as always.
Source: So new it doesn't have a name: Yale researchers discover tick-borne infection, YaleNews, January 16, 2013.