Lyme disease

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Lyme disease

or

Lyme borreliosis,

a nonfatal bacterial infection that causes symptoms ranging from fever and headache to a painful swelling of the joints. The first American case of Lyme's characteristic rash was documented in 1970 and the disease was first identified in a cluster at the submarine base in Groton, Conn., by Navy doctors who reported their findings in 1976. It became more widely known and received its common name when it struck a group of families in nearby Lyme, Conn. In the United States the disease occurs mainly in the northeast among people who frequent grassy or wooded areas; the disease is also prevalent in N and central Europe and temperate Asia. It is caused by the spirochetes of the genus Borrelia and is transmitted by the deer tick, genus Ixodes, which lives on deer, mice, dogs, and other animals.

The bite of the tiny red and black tick injects the bacteria into the blood. A red rash develops, often circular with a bull's-eye appearance, followed by flulike symptoms (fever, headache, and painful joints). Most people are successfully treated with antibiotics. A small number develop chronic disease with neurological problems, memory loss, arthritis, and eye inflammation. Lyme disease is sometimes accompanied by babesiosisbabesiosis
, tick-borne disease caused by a protozoan of the genus Babesia. Babesiosis most commonly affects domestic and wild animals and can be a serious problem in cattle, but since the mid-20th cent. the disease has also been found in humans.
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 or human granulocytic ehrlichiosisehrlichiosis
, any of several diseases caused by rickettsia of the genus Ehrlichia. Ehrlichiosis is transmitted by ticks. Both human forms tend to develop about nine days after a tick bite.
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, which also infect the deer tick.

See also Rocky Mountain spotted feverRocky Mountain spotted fever,
infectious disease caused by a rickettsia. The germ is harbored by wild rodents and other animals and is carried by infected ticks that attach themselves to humans.
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.

Bibliography

See P. Murray, The Widening Circle (1996); A. Karlen, Biography of a Germ (2000); J. A. Edlow, Bull's-Eye (2003).

Lyme disease

A multisystem illness caused by the tick-borne spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. The disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, generally begins with a unique expanding skin lesion, erythema migrans, which is often accompanied by symptoms resembling those of influenza or meningitis. During the weeks or months following the tick bite, some individuals may develop cardiac and neurological abnormalities, particularly meningitis or inflammation of the cranial or peripheral nerves. If the disease is untreated, intermittent or chronic arthritis and progressive encephalomyelitis may develop months or years after primary infection. See Nervous system disorders

The causative agent, B. burgdorferi, is a helically shaped bacterium with dimensions of 0.18–0.25 by 4–30 micrometers. Once thought to be limited to the European continent, Lyme borreliosis and related disorders are now known to occur also in North America, Russia, Japan, China, Australia, and Africa, where B. burgdorferi is maintained and transmitted by ticks of the genus Ixodes, namely I. dammini, I. pacificus, and possibly I. scapularis in the United States, I. ricinus in Europe, and I. persulcatus in Asia. Reports of Lyme disease in areas where neither I. dammini nor I. pacificus is present suggest that other species of ticks or possibly other bloodsucking arthropods such as biting flies or fleas may be involved in maintaining and transmitting the spirochetes. See Ixodides

All stages of Lyme borreliosis may respond to antibiotic therapy. Early treatment with oral tetracycline, doxycycline, penicillin, amoxicillin, or erythromycin can shorten the duration of symptoms and prevent later disease. See Antibiotic

Prevention and control of Lyme borreliosis must be directed toward reduction of the tick population. This can be accomplished through reducing the population of animals that serve as hosts for the adult ticks, elimination of rodents that are not only the preferred hosts but also the source for infecting immature ticks with B. burgdorferi, and application of tick-killing agents to vegetation in infested areas. Personal use of effective tick repellents and toxins is also recommended. See Infectious disease, Insecticide

Lyme disease affects not only humans but also domestic animals such as dogs, horses, and cattle that serve as hosts for the tick vectors. Animals affected show migratory, intermittent arthritis in some joints similar to that observed in humans.

Lyme disease

[′līm di‚zēz]
(medicine)
A complex multisystem human illness caused by the tick-borne spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Also known as Lyme borreliosis.