Mayo discovers new tick infection
Mayo Clinic researchers say they have discovered a new tick-borne bacterium that can infect humans with ehrlichiosis.
"It was identified as a new strain of bacteria through DNA testing," the clinic says in an announcement describing a New England Journal of Medicine article that publishes the findings.
"The new bacterium, not yet named, has been identified in more than 25 people and found in black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis), in Minnesota and Wisconsin," the clinic noted.
Mayo Clinic microbiologist Dr. Bobbi Pritt says human ehrlichiosis was thought to be very rare or absent in Minnesota and Wisconsin before this report, so doctors might not even know to look for it.
"Ehrlichia infect and kill white blood cells and may cause fever, body aches, headache and fatigue. More severe disease may involve multiple organs such as the lungs, kidneys and brain and require hospitalization," the clinic reports.
So far, the bacterium has only been found in samples from Minnesota and Wisconsin. The current best test that doctors should seek is "a molecular blood test that detects DNA."
The other tick-borne illness, of course, is Lyme disease, which can cause fever, headaches, fatigue and a skin rash.