Lyme's Disease

Menstuff® has compiled information on the issue of Lyme's Disease




Lyme Disease Warnings Renewed As Pest Population Appears to Rise

Some experts predict this will be a bad summer for ticks, the result of the mild winter combined with a natural tick baby boom attributed to the arachnid's two-year life cycle. Other health officials say they don't have studies to show whether the tick population is significantly higher this season but say people shouldn't wait for such news before taking precautions.

Medical journals call the creature lxodes scapularis, a bloodsucking animal that carries a bacterium that causes the flulike symptoms and rash of Lyme disease. Parents know it as a summer scourge, requiring daily tick checks on children.

Lyme disease was first identified in the mid-1970s after a group of children in Lyme, Conn., developed arthritis. Since then, researchers have found that the disease is most common in rural and suburban areas in the Northeast, where ticks hook onto deer, known to roam neighborhoods, parks and back yards.

Most researchers agree that, if caught early, Lyme disease can be treated successfully with up to six weeks of antibiotics. But there are some patients who discover the disease late or who receive treatment but later report chronic pain, severe fatigue and a host of neurological problems. Their hands shake. They suffer from facial paralysis.

For now, though, groups like National Capital Lyme Disease Association, based in McLean, say awareness of ticks is the most important protective step.

"Wear light-colored clothes and long shirts and pants," advised Monte Skall, executive director of the group, who has Lyme disease. "And the most important thing to do is a tick check. It's really important this season."
Source: Emily Wax, Washington Post,

Ways To Avoid Lyme Disease Infection

Roughly one-fourth of ticks in many parts of the Northeast are infected with the bacteria causing Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi.

New Approach Against Lyme Disease

Call them the pest posse. Mice are being used to kill a more dreaded pest - ticks - in the latest strategy for preventing Lyme disease.

Very Early Lyme Disease Rash Is Red Throughout, Not A Bull's-Eye

A study of 118 people with clinically diagnosed early Lyme disease showed that most had a red rash with central redness, not a 'bull's-eye' with a clear central area ringed by red, which has been the textbook description of the Lyme disease rash.
Source: American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal
Medicine ,

More data needed on Lyme vaccine safety

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisers said they had been given too little new data to determine if a Lyme disease vaccine might cause autoimmune arthritis. The FDA asked its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee to examine the most recent data on Glaxo SmithKline's LYMErix.

A majority of panelists said the data did not shed new light on concerns raised before approval.

Patricia Ferrieri, a panel consultant and former committee member from the University of Minnesota Medical School, noted an increase in side effect reports and testimony from a vocal group of people who received the vaccine, many of whom claimed they developed autoimmune arthritis from LYMErix.

Barbara Loe Fisher, the panel's consumer representative, urged the agency not to ignore these anecdotal reports. "We cannot continue to dismiss these as coincidental events," said Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center.

Glaxo SmithKline has distributed 1.4 million doses of LYMErix, but it did not estimate how many people might have received the vaccine, delivered in three to five shots over a year.

The agency has received 1,048 reports of events potentially related to LYMErix, including 133 reports of arthritis or arthritic-type symptoms. Robert Ball of the FDA said that, so far, they do not provide clear evidence that LYMErix had caused the effects.

There were more reports in 2000 than in 1999. The uptick might be due to a late onset of symptoms, or news stories suggesting a link between the vaccine and arthritis, Ball said.

The agency is hoping to get to the bottom of the issue. It is interviewing people who reported symptoms and will compare them with other vaccine recipients in the FDA database.

A pregnancy registry for human vaccine recipients and reproductive toxicity trials in rats showed no unexpected events in mothers or fetuses, said Glaxo SmithKline. But panelists were not convinced; one noted a high rate of abortions.

Finally, the company reported initial results of a 5-year prospective study in people who routinely receive LYMErix at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Plan in Boston.

The study was to follow 25,000 vaccine recipients, but very few people are getting LYMErix. So far, only about 3,000 people are in the study.

Starting this year, the company is adding LYMErix vaccine recipients from Tufts Health Plan and HealthPartners health plan in Minnesota to boost study numbers.

Even so, the lack of enrollees worried panelists, who said the smaller numbers might make it harder to draw definitive conclusions and that it may take much longer to get results.

Steven Sheller, a Philadelphia attorney representing vaccine recipients who claim they got arthritis from LYMErix, called for a moratorium on LYMErix sales until more information was gathered. Consumer advocate Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen Health Research Group, urged FDA to change LYMErix labeling to highlight potential problems.

Panelists agreed labeling should be strengthened for both patients and physicians.


Still No Effective Treatment For Post-Lyme Disease Symptoms

While Lyme disease is usually cured with antibiotic treatment, some patients experience persistent fatigue and cognitive dysfunction. In a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, researchers share their experience in a study evaluating ceftriaxone, a broad spectrum antibiotic they hoped would be effective in treating post-Lyme disease symptoms.
Source: American Academy of Neurology,

CDC Lyme Disease

Lyme disease was named in 1977 when arthritis was observed in a cluster of children in and around Lyme, Connecticut. Other clinical symptoms and environmental conditions suggested that this was an infectious disease probably transmitted by an arthropod.

Further investigation revealed that Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi. These bacteria are transmitted to humans by the bite of infected deer ticks and caused more than 23,000 infections in the United States in 2002.

Ixodes scapularis tick

From left to right: The deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) adult female, adult male, nymph, and larva on a centimeter scale.

Vector: Black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) are responsible for transmitting Lyme disease bacteria to humans in the northeastern and north-central United States. On the Pacific Coast, the bacteria are transmitted to humans by the western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus). Ixodes ticks are much smaller than common dog and cattle ticks. In their larval and nymphal stages, they are no bigger than a pinhead. Ticks feed by inserting their mouths into the skin of a host and slowly take in blood. Ixodes ticks are most likely to transmit infection after feeding for two or more days.

Risk: In the United States, Lyme disease is mostly localized to states in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and upper north-central regions, and to several counties in northwestern California. In 2002, 23,763 cases of Lyme disease were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (MMWR 52(31):741-750). Ninety-five percent of these cases were from the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. (See Map)

Individuals who live or work in residential areas surrounded by tick-infested woods or overgrown brush are at risk of getting Lyme disease. Persons who work or play in their yard, participate in recreational activities away from home such as hiking, camping, fishing and hunting, or engage in outdoor occupations, such as landscaping, brush clearing, forestry, and wildlife and parks management in endemic areas may also be at risk of getting Lyme disease.

Prevention and Treatment: Prevention measures can be effective in reducing your exposure to infected ticks, and most people can be successfully treated with antibiotic therapy when diagnosed in the early stages of Lyme disease.

Questions and Answers

Other Tick-Borne Diseases: Information about other tick transmitted illnesses like Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Babesia infection, and ehrlichiosis can be found at CDC Health Topics A-Z.

More on the History of Lyme Disease: Early in the 20th century, European physicians observed patients with a red, slowly expanding rash (called erythema migrans or EM), associated this rash with the bite of ticks, and postulated that it was caused by a tick-borne bacterium. Then in the 1940s, similar tick-borne illness was described that often began with EM and developed into multi-system illness. Later that decade, spirochete-like structures were observed in skin specimens leading to the use of penicillin for treatment.

Aware of these findings, a physician in Wisconsin diagnosed a patient with EM and successfully treated it with penicillin in 1969. In the mid-1970s, physicians observed clusters of children with arthritis in and around Lyme, Connecticut. Other clinical symptoms and environmental conditions suggested that this was a distinct illness probably transmitted by an arthropod. Researchers linked the presence of EM rash lesions to preceding tick bites and determined that early treatment with penicillin not only shortened the duration of EM but also reduced the risk of subsequent arthritis.

In 1982, spirochetes were identified in the midgut of the adult deer tick, Ixodes dammini (referred herein by its original name, the black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis) and given the name Borrelia burgdorferi. Finally, conclusive evidence that B. burgdorferi caused Lyme disease came in 1984 when spirochetes were cultured from the blood of patients with EM, from the rash lesion itself, and from the cerebrospinal fluid of a patient with meningoencephalitis and history of prior EM. CDC began surveillance for Lyme disease in 1982 and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) designated Lyme disease as a nationally notifiable disease in January 1991.


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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Notice to Readers: Final 2002 Reports of Notifiable Diseases. MMWR. 8 August 2003; 5(31):741-750.

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Sood SK, Salzman MB, Johnson BJ, Happ CM, Feig K, Carmody L, Rubin LG, Hilton E, Piesman J. Duration of tick attachment as a predictor of the risk of Lyme disease in an area in which Lyme disease is endemic. J Infect Dis. 1997 Apr;175(4):996-999.

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Steere AC, Malawista SE, Hardin JA, et al. Erythema chronicum migrans and Lyme arthritis: the enlarging clinical spectrum. Ann Intern Med. 1977;86:685-698.

Steere AC, Malawista SE, Newman JH, et al. Antibiotic therapy in Lyme disease. Ann Intern Med. 1980;93:1-8.

Steere AC, Malawista SE, Snydman DR, et al. Lyme arthritis: an epidemic of oligoarticular arthritis in children and adults in three Connecticut communities. Arthritis Rheum. 1977;20:7-17.

Wang G, van Dam AP, Schwartz I, Dankert J. Molecular typing of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato: taxonomic, epidemiological, and clinical implications.Clin Microbiol Rev. 1999 Oct;12(4):633-653.

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