As America once again enters the “Lyme disease season” information regarding this major infectious disease continues to evolve rapidly. The following material has been generated using GIDEON, an interactive on line program that can be used to diagnose or explore the status of all infectious diseases: signs and symptoms, status in every country, ongoing epidemics, antibiotics, vaccines, parasites, virus … in real time. So, let’s test your knowledge about Lyme disease:
- True or false: Lyme disease is a relatively new infection that is primarily limited to the United States.
- You have probably heard that Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks. How many tick-borne diseases occur in the world ? In the United States ?
- Many other infectious diseases are characterized by severe illness, involving many body systems. Are there any truly unique features to Lyme disease ?
- How many antibiotic agents are available ? How many are effective against the bacterium that causes Lyme disease ?
I put these four questions to GIDEON …
1. False. Although Lyme disease was first described in the United States (the name is derived from Lyme, Connecticut), studies have shown that the condition has been with mankind for over 100 years – perhaps even longer. Other “new diseases” which were only discovered because of advances in laboratory technology include Legionnaire’s disease, Campylobacter infection and Hepatitis C. A few other conditions which are truly “new” to mankind include AIDS and SARS.
In fact, Lyme disease has been reported in 68 countries, and is more common in many of these than in the United States. I’ve asked GIDEON to prepare a map and compare the disease rates (cases per 100,000 population) for several countries.
2. There are 346 distinct infectious diseases which affect mankind, worldwide. 28 of these are acquired from the bites of ticks, including 9 diseases in the United States. The latter also include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Ehrlichiosis and Tularemia. Lyme disease is the most common infection in this group (with most cases reported in Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania), and rates are rising.
3. The most unique clinical feature of Lyme disease is ‘Erythema chronicm migrans,’ one or more ‘target-shaped’ red skin lesions. These patches may grow to more than 25 inches in diameter ! A few examples of Lyme disease ticks and the characteristic rash, from GIDEON:
4. At least nine different antibiotic agents are effective against the bacterium that causes Lyme disease; however, some are limited by the potential for side effects, the lack of an oral dose form or the fact that therapy may continue for weeks to months on some cases. An effective vaccine *”LYMErix” had been developed, but was withdrawn over concerns of safety.