Single Tick Bite Can Pack Double Pathogen Punch

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Reported by Science Daily, June 20th, 2014

Although I appreciate the many articles about Lyme disease published by Science Daily, I always find myself thinking that they didn’t publish accurately, or the article didn’t delve deep enough.  For this particular article, I feel they fell short as there is  no mention of other common co-infections such as Bartonella Henselae, otherwise known as Cat Scratch Fever, Ehrlichiosis, Chlamydia Pneumoniae, Tularemia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, etc….Co-infections are often the reason why many with Lyme disease cannot get well.  If you want to learn more about Co-infections, please visit my page “What is Lyme Disease”.

The new research, published online today in the journal PLOS ONE, was conducted by scientists at Bard College, Sarah Lawrence College, and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

“We found that ticks are almost twice as likely to be infected with two pathogens — the bacterium that causes Lyme disease and the protozoan that causes babesiosis — than we would have expected,” said Felicia Keesing, a professor of biology at Bard College, Adjunct Scientist at the Cary Institute, and co-author of the paper. “That means health care providers and the public need to be particularly alert to the possibility of multiple infections coming from the same tick bite.”

Almost 30 percent of the ticks were infected with the agent of Lyme disease. One-third of these were also infected with at least one other pathogen. The agents of Lyme disease and babesiosis were found together in 7 percent of ticks.

The researchers collected thousands of blacklegged ticks from over 150 sites in Dutchess County, New York, an area with high incidence of tick-borne illnesses. They also collected ticks that had fed on different kinds of wildlife, including birds, rodents, opossums, and raccoons. Ticks acquire pathogens from feeding on infected hosts. DNA from each tick was extracted and tested for the presence of several pathogens.

“Mice and chipmunks are critical reservoirs for these two pathogens, so ticks that have fed on these animals are much more likely to be co-infected,” said Michelle Hersh, an assistant professor of biology at Sarah Lawrence College, past postdoctoral researcher at the Cary Institute, and lead author of the study.

“Mice and other small mammals are often particularly abundant in habitats that have been fragmented or degraded by human activity,” said Richard Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. “That means these patterns of co-infection might get worse through time as humans continue to impact forest ecosystems.”

The researchers also considered another emerging pathogen, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, the bacterium that causes anaplasmosis in humans. Fortunately, ticks were not more likely than expected to be co-infected with Anaplasma and the Lyme disease bacterium.

The researchers determined the proportion of ticks infected with each pathogen individually, then calculated the rates of co-infection expected by chance alone. Not only was co-infection with the agents of Lyme disease and babesiosis greater than expected, but rates of triple infection with the agents of Lyme, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis were about twice as likely as expected. “People in tick-infested parts of the United States such as the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Upper Midwest, are vulnerable to being exposed to two or three diseases from a single tick bite,” said Keesing. “And, of course, that risk increases when they’re bitten by more than one tick.”

 

 

 

 

Quit Bugging Me!

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Tips on Coping with Bug Bites this Summer

Warmer weather has folks venturing outdoors, and while the risk of running into a snake, bear or other menacing animal exists, the critters far more likely to be encountered in the great outdoors are ticks, mosquitoes and other insects.

A lot of bugs pack a powerful bite or sting.

Janyce Sanford, M.D., chair of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Emergency Medicine, recommends an insect repellant with DEET, along with long pants and long-sleeved shirts, as the best way to ward off most pesky insects. DEET with a concentration of 10 to 30 percent is approved for use on children ages 2 months and older. Ten percent DEET will last about two hours, and 24 percent DEET lasts around five hours.

Ticks in Alabama are known to carry the bacterium that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever; but the likelihood of getting Lyme disease from a local tick bite is low in this region, according to Sanford. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is characterized by a flulike illness, followed by a red, raised rash on the wrists or ankles. The best way to remove a tick, says Sanford, is to use tweezers and pull straight up in an easy motion.

“One of the biggest outdoor risks is bee or wasp stings, especially for those with severe allergic reactions,” Sanford said. “A severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, can be fatal.”

She recommends carrying an epinephrine auto-injector, commonly known as an EpiPen, when camping or hiking, especially if anyone in the group has ever reacted badly to previous stings. EpiPens require a prescription from a physician and can be purchased at a drugstore.

Sanford says a good first-aid kit is a must for anyone planning on spending time outdoors. Ready-made kits are available at outdoor stores, or they can be assembled from materials on hand. Include assorted bandages and basic medicines such as Tylenol, Benadryl and aspirin. Albuterol will help those with group members who have asthma or COPD. Include a 1 percent hydrocortisone anti-itch cream, foldable splints, alcohol wipes and cleaning agents.

Sanford advises planning before heading to the woods or mountains. Research the destination, and know what to expect. Be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your group. Who has allergies? Who knows CPR? Are there any special needs to be considered?

Proper clothing, rain gear, plenty of water and emergency food supplies will help keep an unexpected event from turning your outdoor vacation into a hospital visit.

“Common sense and a little thought before you venture out will help make your outdoor adventure one to remember fondly,” said Sanford.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alabama at Birmingham. The original article was written by Bob Shepard. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Stanford Report, February 18, 2014

Stanford Study Says Ticks May Cause Double Trouble

A Stanford study has found that ticks infected with the bacterium that causes Lyme disease and a newly identified human pathogen are widespread in the San Francisco Bay Area.

By Rob Jordan  Two ticks on a stick

 

Researchers found ticks infected with the bacterium that causes Lyme disease and a newly identified human pathogen in nearly every Bay Area park they examined.

As winter turns to spring and many Northern Californians plan outdoor adventures, a mysterious, potentially debilitating threat looms.

A newly recognized human pathogen with unknown health consequences has been found to occur over a large part of the San Francisco Bay Area. A study to be published in the March issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Disease details how researchers, including Dan Salkeld, a research associate at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, found the bacterium Borrelia miyamotoi, as well as B. burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, in ticks they sampled throughout the area.

The researchers were surprised to find ticks infected with one or both bacteria in nearly every park they examined. The findings raise the question of whether B. miyamotoi has gone undetected in California residents. The research results are “an important step toward dispelling the perception that you cannot acquire Lyme disease in California,” said Ana Thompson, the executive director of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation.

B. miyamotoi has been known for some time to infect ticks; the first known human case of B. miyamotoi infection in the U.S. was discovered in 2013. Beyond Lyme-like symptoms such as fever and headache, little is known about its potential health impacts. In the Bay Area, low awareness of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme could heighten the risk of infection with B. miyamotoi for users of the region’s extensive natural areas and trails.

“People who have difficulty getting diagnoses – maybe this is involved,” Salkeld said.

Understanding Lyme disease

Lyme disease, named for Lyme, Conn., where the illness was first identified in 1975, is transmitted to humans via the bite of a tick infected with B. burgdorferi. In California, the culprit is the western black-legged tick and the primary carrier is the western gray squirrel. On the East Coast, the culprit is the black-legged tick and the white-footed mouse is the main carrier.

Lyme can be difficult to diagnose, but its early symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and sometimes a telltale rash that looks like a bull’s-eye centered on the tick bite. If left untreated, the infection can cause a range of health problems, from arthritis and joint pain to immune deficiencies and a persistent cognitive fog. Most people recover with antibiotic treatment, but for unknown reasons some patients who suffer from a variety of Lyme-like symptoms find no relief from the normally prescribed therapy.

Although the majority of U.S. Lyme infections occur in the Northeast, incidence of the disease is growing across the country. Changes in climate and the movement of infected animals may be partly to blame. Last summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that as many as 300,000 Americans contract Lyme disease annually, a rate 10 times higher than previously reported. The new figure, the result of national laboratory surveys and a review of insurance information, reflects what has long been suspected: Lyme is not well diagnosed or reported by many doctors.

When someone is infected, it can take weeks before blood tests detect antibodies. Adding to the diagnostic headache, tests have been known to return false positives and false negatives. Current testing capabilities also have a hard time determining whether the infection has been cured.

An interdisciplinary Lyme Disease Working Group at Stanford School of Medicine is exploring ways to improve diagnostic tests and medical understanding, evaluate the effectiveness of innovative therapies, expand clinical services and build greater public awareness.

Studying a mystery

Salkeld is a research scientist at Colorado State University and a former lecturer at Stanford who still does disease ecology research at the Stanford Woods Institute. He started this tick research with Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Eric Lambin while teaching a course in conservation medicine at Stanford.

Aided by his Stanford students, Salkeld’s initial research focused on assessing the risk of Lyme disease at the university’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve and in the neighboring towns of Portola Valley and Woodside.

Salkeld and his fellow researchers went on to test 12 Bay Area recreational areas. They found B. burgdorferi in about 2 percent of adult ticks, an expectedly low rate of infection for the region, according to Salkeld. By comparison, about 35 percent of adult ticks in the Northeast United States carry the bacterium.

Salkeld was surprised to find ticks infected with B. burgdorferi not only in woodlands but also in grassland chaparral habitat far from wooded areas. He was more surprised to find that ticks were infected with B. miyamotoi at slightly higher rates than those infected with B. burgdorferi.

Concerned citizens

Salkeld’s research is funded by the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a national nonprofit founded in 2011 by residents of Portola Valley. Alarmed at the number of people with Lyme disease in their community, the group’s founding members started an informal research initiative. They read all they could about the disease and invited medical authorities to discuss Lyme at neighborhood gatherings.

“We were just trying to learn about Lyme disease and why people were getting it,” said Bonnie Crater, the group’s co-founder and vice president. Crater and others were frustrated with the apparent lack of regional medical knowledge on the issue as well as the difficulty of getting a diagnosis and treating the disease. “This is not cancer. It’s bacteria, and we’ve had antibiotics for over 100 years,” she said.

“Diagnostics is the number one thing in terms of getting care,” said Kathleen O’Rourke, a co-founder and advisory board member of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation. When O’Rourke sought help for her 9-year-old son suffering from Lyme-like symptoms including intense fatigue, a pediatrician listed a range of possible issues, but not Lyme. “We were told there is no Lyme in California,” she said. Five months later, when her son was almost too weak to walk, O’Rourke found a doctor who ran a battery of tests that found Lyme.

After a year and a half of heavy antibiotic doses, O’Rourke’s son was back to normal. O’Rourke wasn’t as lucky. After getting her own Lyme diagnosis, she suffered through four years of treatment and lingering symptoms. The pain of unmedicated childbirth “was nothing compared to this,” she said. “The pain was excruciating. It was like liquid fire in the joints.”

Rob Jordan is the communications writer for the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

Tips for avoiding Lyme disease:

  • Stay in the middle of trails, avoiding brush, wood piles, logs.
  • Check thoroughly for ticks (especially in hair) after spending time outdoors.
  • Check pets that can bring ticks indoors.
  • If you develop symptoms (fever, headache, fatigue or rash), consider consulting a doctor knowledgeable about Lyme.