Lyme disease round-up – September 2021

Posted: 29th September 2021

At Biocentaur, we stay at the cutting edge of new development in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease. Our range of genetic tests is helping patients receive a fast and accurate diagnosis, enabling treatment to begin as soon as possible. 

You can learn more about our range of Lyme disease tests here.

Here are four Lyme disease stories that have caught the eye of the Biocentaur team this month.

Wind and humidity predictors of Lyme disease cases

Strong north/south winds and high relative humidity in Virginia are strong predictors of Lyme disease infections, scientists have discovered. Using data on the number and variation of Lyme disease cases in Virginia from 2001-2016, the team used several statistical methods to construct a predictive method for the spread of disease over space and time.

The predictive tool established a link between wind direction and humidity, enabling them to identify times when risk was higher. While specifically useful for Virginia, the findings could have broader relevance. “The proposed modeling framework offers epidemiologists and health policymakers a useful tool for improving disease preparedness and control plans for the future,” say the authors.

You can read the full study, Spatio-temporal modeling for confirmed cases of lyme disease in Virginia, here.

Scientists unlock genetic secrets of Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria

Spirochetes are a form of bacteria that includes Borrelia burgdorferi, the primary cause of Lyme disease. Despite its critical importance to human health, scientists understand little of how bacteria work, including DNA replication/segregation and cell elongation or division. By using an advanced technique known as immunofluorescence, scientists were able to identify a cytoplasmic protein that provides a valuable insight into how the protein works.

The findings provide researchers with “information that will yield functional insights into the complex biology of this fascinating group of bacteria,” say the authors. In addition, this information could be used to “provide new avenues of research in both in situ studies and in Lyme diagnostics.”

You can read the full study, A simple method to detect Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato proteins in different sub-cellular compartments by immunofluorescence, here.

Lyme disease has dramatic impact on mental health

Patients with Lyme disease had a 28% higher rate of mental disorders and were 75% more likely to attempt suicide, researchers have established. The research completed by US and Danish scientists highlights a concerning relationship between Lyme disease and mental health. Patients with a Lyme disease diagnosis had a 42% higher rate of affective disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder.

“In addition to the risk of severe cardiac, rheumatologic, and neurologic problems, Lyme disease can cause severe mental health problems as well,” said Brian Fallon, MD, MPH, a psychiatrist with the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, and lead author of the paper. The authors urge healthcare professionals to consider Lyme disease’s potential mental health impacts, alongside the physical dangers.

You can read the full study, Lyme Borreliosis and Associations With Mental Disorders and Suicidal Behavior: A Nationwide Danish Cohort Study, here.

River vole population linked to rise in Lyme disease cases

Researchers in Finland have established a large population of river voles presents an increased risk of Lyme disease. The study identified a relationship between the “abundance variations” (the changing number of river voles) and Lyme disease infections. In a fascinating twist, the researchers noted a time lag between the increase in vole population and Lyme disease. The reason is that the two tick species prevalent in Finland take time to mature.

While focused specifically on Finland, the research could find relevance for health authorities across the world.

You can read the full study, Rodent host population dynamics drive zoonotic Lyme Borreliosis and Orthohantavirus infections in humans in Northern Europe, here.

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