MEDICAL COLLEGE RESEARCHER CONTRIBUTES TO DISCOVERY OF A NEW TICK-BORNE DISEASE IN NEW YORK
Gary P. Wormser, M.D., international expert on Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections, says more research is needed
VALHALLA, N.Y., January 17, 2013—A New-York-based researcher played a key role in discovering a new tick-borne infection in 18 patients in New York and New England.
Gary P. Wormser, M.D., chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and vice chairman of the Department of Medicine at New York Medical College in Valhalla, worked with researchers from Yale University to identify the disease, which is so new it is still unnamed.
“Blood tests were used to detect evidence of infection by a bacterium that is found in deer ticks, but up to this point never known to cause infection in the United States,” Dr. Wormser said. “We found positive results for the new infection in 21 percent of 14 patients seen at New York Medical College’s Lyme Disease Diagnostic Center with an unexplained summertime febrile illness. Evidence of infection also was found in patients from New England.”
The important findings were published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Yale scientists discovered the bacterium that causes this infection, known as Borrelia miyamotoi, in deer ticks from Connecticut more than a decade ago. In 2011, they published the first evidence of human infection in Russian patients. The new study was designed to see if human infection occurs in the United States.
All patients in the study were from the Northeast, but researchers believe cases may occur in other areas of the country where Lyme disease is endemic because the bacterium has been found in about 2 percent of all ticks that transmit Lyme disease
“This is the first time we have found an infectious organism carried by ticks before we have recognized the disease in humans,” said Durland Fish, professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health and the study’s senior author. “We usually discover new diseases during an epidemic and then try to figure out what is causing it.”
The lead author of the study was Dr. Peter Krause from Yale University. Other authors of the study were Erol Fikrig, chief of infectious diseases at Yale School of Medicine; Sukanya Narasimhan, research scientist in infectious diseases at the Yale School of Medicine and Alan Barbour, University of California, Irvine.
Dr. Wormser said additional research is needed to determine the frequency of infection, spectrum of clinical symptoms and most appropriate diagnostic testing for this newly appreciated infection in our area.