Vector-borne Bacterial Infections
Vector-borne bacterial infections such as Lyme disease can be a serious infection caused by Borrelia species, also known as a spirochete, which is transmitted via a tick bite (perhaps also flea and mosquito bites). Many strains of Borrelia exist, and some do not cause disease. Nonetheless, there are likely greater than 100 strains of pathogenic Borrelia and probably more as yet unidentified. Certainly, geographic strain differences exist, especially with regard to continents, as the disease-causing bacteria have also been documented in Europe, Australia, China, South America, and Africa. Lyme disease and co-infections are most probably ubiquitous and found on every continent in the world.
Below is a map showing the average risk of encountering Lyme disease-carrying ticks in central and Eastern Canada from the year 2000 compared to the year 2015:
Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses can present as acute or chronic infection(s) depending on the length of exposure to the bacteria and the pathogen load at the time of infection. Often the infection(s) is treated with appropriate antibiotics, but at other times when persistent long-term infection ensues, treatment becomes more difficult. To complicate matters further, ticks carry other infectious bacteria in addition to Borrelia. They include Babesia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Bartonella, and Mycoplasma for certain, but there may be other bacteria, viruses, and fungi not yet identified that are problematic and disease-causing as well. Additionally, a tick bite may also transmit the newly identified HGRV retrovirus. However, to date, the latter infection has not yet been scientifically documented as a vector-borne disease.
More likely, the presence of Borrelia sets the stage for the invasion of opportunistic secondary infections (i.e., HHV6, EBV, Cytomegalovirus, Parvovirus B19, Chlamydia pneumonia, Candida) by lowering the overall host’s immune system function. This allows the proliferation of other infections that in effect overwhelm the body’s inherent immune defense mechanisms. Intestinal parasites such as hookworm, tapeworm, flukes, etc., may also contribute to intestinal illness seen in the tick-borne disease. Further discussion of this matter as it directly pertains to you will occur at your initial office visit.
Lyme disease is well known for variable symptom presentation which is one of the reasons it is so difficult to diagnose. Arthritis, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, Parkinson’s Disease, Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Disease, autoimmune diseases, a myriad of psychiatric disorders, and Autism are simply a few of the diagnoses where Lyme disease should be considered in the differential diagnosis. This is precisely why Lyme disease is known as the “Great Imitator” because the constellation of symptoms observed in a patient is likely to be confused with other diagnoses. Additionally, the incidence of Lyme disease and co-infections in the United States alone has been steadily escalating since the mid-1980s. Although Borrelia was first identified in 1975 by Dr. Willie Burgdorfer in Lyme, Connecticut, global recognition of the bacteria’s presence and severity remains elusive.