Borrelia miyamotoi are bacteria that were recently recognized to cause disease in humans. Although it sounds similar to the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia miyamotoi is actually more closely related to the bacteria that causes tickborne relapsing fever.
The bacteria was first discovered in Japan in 1995. In the United States, the first human infections were reported in 2013. The first case in a Vermont resident was reported to the Health Department in 2016.
Patients with a Borrelia miyamotoi infection may have a fever, chills, muscle aches, fatigue, joint pain and headaches. Some patients also report that their fever comes and goes (called a relapsing fever). Patients with a Borrelia miyamotoi infection do not often have a rash, unlike patients with Lyme disease.
A Borrelia miyamotoi infection can be diagnosed with the help of a blood test. Laboratory tests for infection are not as widely available as tests for other tickborne diseases, but they are offered by some commercial laboratories.
Tests used to diagnose an infection with Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, cannot be used to diagnose a Borrelia miyamotoi infection.
Borrelia miyamotoi infections have been successfully treated with a 2 to 4 week course of doxycycline. Other antibiotics have also been used to treat this illness.
In Vermont and other parts of the northeastern United States, Borrelia miyamotoi is likely transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis). This is the same tick that transmits Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and Powassan virus.
The best way to prevent a Borrelia miyamotoi infection is to prevent tick bites.
The Health Department began surveillance for Borrelia miyamotoi in 2016 when the first infection in a Vermont resident was reported. Like other tickborne diseases, each reported Borrelia miyamotoi infection is investigated by the Department. To date, fewer than 10 Borrelia miyamotoi infections in Vermont residents have been reported.
The Vermont Department of Health is also working with other state health departments and federal partners to collect and share information on Borrelia miyamotoi infections. These joint efforts are designed to help assess the public health impact of this disease and identify potential surveillance methods.
Because it is an emerging disease, Borrelia miyamotoi infections are reportable in Vermont. Health care providers are required to report cases to the Health Department. Laboratories are also required to report positive results for Borrelia miyamotoi, including those from polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and antibody-based tests.