Patients who test negative for Lyme disease after a suspected tick bite could be suffering from a recently identified illness also spread by deer ticks, a team led by Massachusetts researchers reported Monday.
The paper describes two patients, one in Massachusetts and one in New Jersey, who were initially suspected of having another tick-borne disease but were instead found to have the new infection.
Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the findings underscore the increasing importance for doctors to think about more than Lyme, the region’s most common tick-borne disease, when they see a patient who was or could have been bitten by a tick. The authors said the cases also may give a hint about why some patients who test negative for Lyme become sick with similar symptoms.
The new infection, caused by the bacterium Borrelia miyamotoi, is the fifth human disease known to be spread by blood-sucking deer ticks, which transmit disease largely in the spring and summer.
“The big message is everyone who gets tested for Lyme disease should get [tested] for all five,” said Sam R. Telford III, a professor at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine who studies tick-borne diseases and is one of the authors.
You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month
Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.
- High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
- Convenient access across all of your devices
- Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
- Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
- Less than 25¢ a week