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Long Forgotten Research Suggests a Secondary Bacterium behind Lyme disease

First Posted: Oct 19, 2016 05:40 AM EDT
Lyme Disease
An old study has popped up stating that a secondary bacterium is the reason behind Lyme disease
(Photo : Chip Somodevilla / Staff / Getty Images)

Lyme disease is caused by being bitten or infected by the tick-borne Borrelia bacteria. A study suggests that a secondary bacterium is a reason behind the emergence of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease can cause various consequences such as 'bullseye', rash, headache, fatigue and fever. But in reality, Lyme disease continues to surprise the doctors as well as patients. According to a report published in ScienceAlert, a vast majority of people are treated after a short course of antibiotics and a small percentage of the 3, 29,000 US patients infected every year continue to suffer from the symptoms for months or even after that.

The condition is known as 'post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome' or 'chronic Lyme disease'. There is a continuous debate regarding how to treat the disease and whether it's an actual condition or not. But now, a long lost note from a scientist who discovered Borrelia as the cause of Lyme disease has re-emerged.

According to escientificnews, during late 1970's, a few months before Borrelia bacteria was named as the cause of Lyme disease, tick expert Willy Burdorfer was confident regarding the fact that he has found out the culprit of Lyme disease. He named the bacteria as 'Swiss Agent', now known as Rickettsia Helvetica. But in 1981, Burdorfer changed his mind and considered Borrelia as the major cause of Lyme disease. In 1982, he published his conclusion in a seminal paper in Science.

Though Burdorfer died in 2014, STAT, a medical journalism site has archived his old research papers, notes, and lab and blood test results. Scientists who worked with Burdofer, after reviewing the study papers said that the bacteria are still infecting lakhs of Americans today. His studies state that a dozen of Lyme patients have been infected with Swiss Agent while nearly 6 others have been infected with bacteria.

As it was not proved initially, Burdorfer carried out a second series of test and studies, which forced him to believe that Borrelia is the cause behind the emergence of Lyme disease. In Europe, experts have noted that Lyme and Rickettsia Helvetica have co-infected patients in the past.

According to ScienceDaily, Ian Lipkin, a Columbia University researcher is presently looking out for other types of viruses that spread Lyme. Swiss Agent can be cured with the help of antibiotics but if it is linked with symptoms of Lyme disease, it can cause facial paralysis, fatigue, severe headaches and muscle weakness.

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