Lyme Disease, Odd Discovery and 9 Things You Should Know
With the arrival of spring, summer and Lyme disease risk is not far behind. This tick-borne disease can be difficult to detect and treat, and it can cause life-altering symptoms, which makes the new odd discovery about the disease especially interesting. At the same time, there are some important things you should know about Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is a yearly threat to millions
The threat of Lyme disease hangs over hundreds of millions of people in North America and Europe every year, and it’s all because of a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi that is carried by deer ticks. While prompt treatment with antibiotics may ensure a complete recovery, some people miss or ignore the signs of the disease and delay treatment, which can leave individuals with life-long symptoms.
A new odd discovery about B. burgdorferi may help scientists find new ways to treat the disease. A team from Johns Hopkins University (JHU), the University of Texas, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution found that the bacterium requires abnormally high levels of manganese and can exist without iron. This is odd because all other known organisms require iron to exist.
However, B. burgdorferi is able to substitute manganese to make the enzyme it needs to survive and thrive. This ability also allows the bacterium to avoid the immune system’s natural defense, which is to protect the body by starving disease-causing organisms of iron.
This means that scientists may now look for new treatments for Lyme disease that involve manganese, according to molecular biologist and one of the study’s authors, Valeria Culotta, of JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health. Borrelia has certain manganese-containing enzymes that may be a suitable target.
So while the new batch of bacteria-carrying ticks ready themselves for another season, scientists are planning to investigate how the bacteria acquire and use manganese. A better understanding of this process will hopefully lead researchers to new ways to prevent and treat Lyme disease.