Lyme disease, or borreliosis, is a disease whose name is derived from a small American town named Old Lyme, where an increased occurrence of joint disease in children due to an unknown cause was observed. From the late 19th to the mid-20th century, symptoms of Lyme disease were described, and the illness was connected with tick bites. Subsequently, transmission of the disease by ticks was confirmed also in regions outside of Old Lyme. In 1982 it was established that the disease is caused by bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the most frequent causal agent of borreliosis in North America. Two other strains of bacteria in the Borrelia genus were discovered – Borrelia garinii and Borrelia afzelii. These cause borreliosis cases in Europe.
Borreliosis (Lyme disease) is the most serious tick-transmitted disease. The disease progression has three phases. After an infected tick bite, the first symptoms are observable within several days up to several weeks.
I. In the first stage, it is common to observe erythema migrans - a typical symptom of borreliosis that greatly facilitates correct diagnosis. It is a red rash with a white center that forms around the bite location. Erythema migrans can be accompanied by fever, headaches, fatigue or nausea. The rash spreads and can reach the size of tens of centimeters.
II. In cca 40% of cases, erythema migrans does not form and the disease can progress unnoticed into the second stage, which is accompanied by chronic symptoms and is difficult to cure. This stage begins from two to twelve weeks after infection and subsides after a maximum of three months. Typical symptoms are joint pain and edemas – especially of the knees, muscle soreness, peripheral nerve paralysis (most commonly paralysis of facial nerves). Temporary inflammation of the myocardium can occur. In some cases, a borrelial lymphocytoma (violet nodule under the skin) can form on the nipples, earlobes or testes.
III. The third stage of borreliosis begins months or even years after the primary infection. Symptoms include skin inflammation and subsequent atrophy that affects mainly the lower limbs, inflammation of joints, the brain and spinal cord, eyes or heart.
Number of borreliosis patients
The number of cases of borreliosis in the Czech Republic is about 4000 reported diseases per year. The information was taken from the State Health Institute database.
To this date, there is still no vaccine effective at protection against this infectious disease. Early diagnosis and immediate treatment with antibiotics are of utmost importance in borreliosis treatment. If borreliosis is identified and treated in time, its symptoms subside without any complications. Headaches, joint pains and fatigue can, however, persist for some time.
In case of late treatment, the patient is in danger of developing nerve and joint damage, as well as cardiovascular disorders and other problems. Further information about borreliosis treatment can be found in the article “Treatment of Borreliosis”.
Borrelia are classified as spirochaetes, bacteria that have long, spiral shaped cells and move by a twisting motion. Their closest relatives are treponema (causative agents of syphilis) and leptospira (causative agents of leptospirosis). Spirochaete movement is depicted in the video below.
Maps of infected tick incidence were assembled based on ticks analyzed in Protean s.r.o. laboratories.
More information about the borreliosis including patients' and experts' experience can be found at the information server www.borelioza.cz.