Lyme disease or Lyme borreliosis, a nonfatal bacterial infection that causes symptoms ranging from fever and headache to a painful swelling of the joints. The first American case of Lyme's characteristic rash was documented in 1970 and the disease was first identified in a cluster at the submarine base in Groton, Conn., by Navy doctors who reported their findings in 1976. It became more widely known and received its common name when it struck a group of families in nearby Lyme, Conn. In the United States the disease occurs mainly in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest among people who frequent grassy or wooded areas, but black-legged ticks are found in roughly half the counties in the United States. The disease is also prevalent in N and central Europe and temperate Asia. It is caused by the spirochetes of the genus Borrelia and is transmitted by black-legged, or deer, ticks of the genus Ixodes, which live on deer, mice, dogs, and other animals.
The bite of the tick injects the bacteria into the blood. A red rash develops, often circular with a bull's-eye appearance, followed by flulike symptoms (fever, headache, and painful joints). Most people are successfully treated with antibiotics. A small number develop chronic disease with neurological problems, memory loss, arthritis, and eye inflammation. Lyme disease is sometimes accompanied by babesiosis or human granulocytic ehrlichiosis, which also infect Ixodes ticks.
See also Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
See P. Murray, The Widening Circle (1996); A. Karlen, Biography of a Germ (2000); J. A. Edlow, Bull's-Eye (2003).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Pathology