Researchers Make Critical Discovery That Could Improve Lyme Disease Treatment

According to a story from vtnews.vt.edu, a research team at Virginia Tech has made a critical discovery about the origins of Lyme arthritis, a painful and debilitating symptom that among one the most common in late stage Lyme disease. With this new discovery, the scientists hope that new and more effective options for both treatment and diagnosis can be developed. 

About Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the genus Borrelia. This bacteria is commonly spread to humans through the bite of a tick. In the US, the species of tick associated with Lyme disease is called the deer tick or the black legged tick (Ixodes scapularis). A tick must be attached to a person for at least 36 hours to transmit the bacteria. Symptoms of this disease include a distinctive bullseye rash surrounding the bite, fatigue, malaise, headache, and fever. Delays in treatment can lead to more serious symptoms, such as facial paralysis, mood changes, memory loss, sleeping difficulties, meningitis, arthritis, and others. In most cases, prompt treatment can effectively cure the infection. Delayed treatment increases the chance of serious complications and long term, lingering symptoms. The number of cases of the disease appears to be growing annually. To learn more about Lyme disease, click here.

About The Research

The research was led by biochemist Brandon Jutras. The team found that as the Borrelia bacteria that cause the disease continue to reproduce, they released a component of their cell wall called peptidoglycan. This substance triggers a inflammatory reaction from the body’s immune system.

As mentioned previously, this discovery could lead to improvements in the methods used to diagnose Lyme disease. The disease is usually diagnosed using a combination of symptoms assessment and lab testing, but the testing used for Lyme disease has at time been found to be lacking in accuracy, leading to missed diagnoses. However, searching for the presence of peptidoglycan in synovial fluid could help make testing more effective. 

Borrelia peptidoglycan contributes to Lyme arthritis because it tends to appear in the joints which causes them to get inflamed. The next step of research will be investigating methods do dispose of the peptidoglycan or prevent it from triggering inflammation. 

Check out the original study here.


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