Borrelia miyamotoi – new or old?

On 17th January 2013 news from America announced the discovery of ‘a new tick-borne infection that shares many similarities with Lyme disease’. The bacteria, which is not new, is called Borrelia miyamotoi , a relative of those which cause Lyme disease. Genetically, it is more closely related to the relapsing fever group of spirochaetes. Borrelia miyamotoi was first discovered in 1995 in Japan. Globally, it is transmitted by the same ticks that carry and transmit Lyme disease to humans.

We do not know whether any of the relapsing fever Borrelia are present in the UK.[see PS] B. miyamotoi appears to cause a very similar infection to that of the better known Lyme disease Borrelia (B. afzelii, B burgdorferi, B. garinii). The principle (but not the only) differences appear to be less frequently causing an erythema migrans rash and more frequently causing fevers. What is certain is that it is perfectly possible for a UK holidaymaker to contract this infection in Europe, and now we know also in the USA.

This report, therefore, simply highlights the uncertainties our recent project has confirmed:

  • the species of Borrelia causing UK disease are not known
  • the best test for detecting UK Borreliosis is not known
  • the best treatment is not known

On we go to find more answers about the infections caused by these fascinating and complex organisms.

There is a fuller discussion of this news on our Research Papers page: Borreliosis: not just Lyme.

PS B miyamotoi has now been confirmed in UK ticks in England. (Hansford KM, Fonville M, Jahfari S, Sprong H, Medlock JM. Borrelia miyamotoi in host-seeking Ixodes ricinus ticks in England. Epidemiol Infect. 2014 Jul 14;1–9.