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What’s New in Lyme Disease Research

CRegal Apr 5th, 2013 (updated Nov 5th, 2014)
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Nanotechnology diagnosis
Nanotechnology diagnosis

It is estimated that nearly one-quarter of all Lyme cases are initially misdiagnosed.  Research from the University of Pennsylvania seems to have found a means to expedite the diagnosis process through the use of nanotechnology, injecting nanotubes loaded with lab-produced antibodies into the blood.  If the antibodies bind to specific proteins in the blood, Lyme bacteria is present.

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Lyme bacteria not like other bacterium
Lyme bacteria not like other bacterium

When the body is infected, its immune system produces hepcidin, which inhibits iron absorption and essentially starves the bacteria, which needs iron to grow and survive.  However, joint research from Johns Hopkins University, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of Texas has found that Lyme disease – unlike any other known organism – does not require iron to survive.  

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Mouse vaccine for Lyme disease
Mouse vaccine for Lyme disease

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine have discovered that the white-footed mouse, a common carrier of Lyme disease, has a different immune response depending on the strand of the disease it contracts.  Scientists have studied these responses and are working to develop a vaccine for the animals. 

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Recurring Lyme symptoms from new infections
Recurring Lyme symptoms from new infections

New research from the University of Pennsylvania and New York Medical College indicates that repeat symptoms are from new infections, not relapses.  The study tracked the "genetic fingerprints" of those patients who have had multiple recurrences of symptoms, and the scientists found that different episodes of symptoms were caused by different strains of the bacteria, indicating that these were cases of new infections.

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Study of Lyme bacteria intensifies
Study of Lyme bacteria intensifies

Lyme disease was first defined in 1981 and it has taken nearly three decades to study fewer than 40 bacterial genes in an effort to determine  why the Lyme bacteria has become so invasive and persistent.  Scientists from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston have stepped up this investigation, testing 15 times more bacterial genes than had previously been analyzed.  

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Persistent immune response after treatment
Persistent immune response after treatment

New research from Yale University studied the bacterium that causes Lyme disease both during and after antibiotic treatment.  Despite completion of the treatment and the eradication of the live bacteria in the body, this study found that some people still have bacterial deposits in the joints, a product of the arthritis-like symptoms.