The miyamotoi spirochete was discovered in Japan in 1995. It was at first believed to be limited to those islands. It then began appearing elsewhere in the Pacific including California and other western states in America.
In 2001, Dr. Fish found it in about 2 percent of the deer ticks in the Northeast and Upper Midwest and proved that mice could pick it up from tick bites.
In spite of all this evidence, researchers could not find grant money to research the new strain in order to find out whether or not it caused disease or not (some strains of spirochetes cause no more than a rash, some apparently do not cause any illness, and of course some like Borrelia burgdoferi are virulent and potentially lethal.)
Recently the New York Times reported that B. miyamotoi has been found in the same deer tick species that transmit Lyme, and the Yale researchers estimate that perhaps 3,000 Americans a year pick it up from tick bites, compared with about 25,000 who get Lyme disease. These numbers come from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) who admits that they are under-reporting due to the lack of accurate diagnostic tests. In fact they conservatively say they are only reporting 10% of actual cases. Many believe it is more like 1 %.
Well, if there are diagnostic problems with Borrelia burgdoferi, you can imagine how much more difficult it is right now to diagnose Borrelia miyamotoi. There is no diagnostic test for it in this country. So the number of people who are sick with it in America is anybody’s guess although we do have some clues.
As far back as 2006 researchers from UC Berkeley entomologist department classified Borrelia miyamotoi as a relapsing fever group spirochete having found the miyamotoi in the western blacklegged tick, Ixodes pacificus. Now that this strain has been found in deer ticks on the East Coast it doesn’t take very much imagination to allow that it has found its way into other spirochete infected ticks.
And on the other side of the world, Russian scientists made some discoveries that forced some heads out of the sand here in America.
In Russia, where a team in the Siberian city of Yekaterinburg finally developed a test that can distinguish miyamotoi from other tick-borne spirochetes, and were able to determine that there was in fact specific and measurable illness caused from Borrelia miyamotoi.
As it turns out, their results also put the species in the relapsing fever category but show that it causes higher fevers than Borrelia burgdorferi typically does. In about 10 percent of cases, the fevers repeatedly disappear and return after a week or two.
This discovery raises more questions than it answers.
Dr. Fish found B. miyamotoi in American ticks 10 years ago, but was repeatedly refused a study grant until the Russians proved it caused illness. “It’s been like pulling teeth,” he said. “Go ask the N.I.H. why.”
Our country is facing the fastest growing epidemic it has ever faced and to quote the New York Times, “Most medical authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Infectious Disease Society of America, take the position that “chronic Lyme disease” does not exist, and that those victims either have other illnesses or are hypochondriacs. They oppose the solution demanded by some self-proclaimed victims: long-term intravenous antibiotics.”
Perhaps the cure for those of us who suffer from chronic Lyme disease will come from another country. In fact it appears that unless something significant changes in the current American medical system, other than a handful of courageous doctors, we are on our own.