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Disease Carriers

Bacteria: Borrelia burgdorferi

Borrelia burgdorferi is a spirochete which is the causative agent of Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne disease in the United States. The reservoirs for the spirochete are the white-footed mouse and the white-tailed deer. Transmission is accomplished by the bite of infected deer ticks. Contact with the tick usually occurs in areas of brush and tall grass.

New York state has the highest number of reported (confirmed) cases of Lyme disease in the United States. The disease is usually recognized by a distinctive skin lesion, erythema migrans, accompanied by headache, stiff neck, myalgias, arthralgias, fatigue and possible swelling of the lymph nodes. Not all symptoms are seen in every case, complicating diagnosis. While treatable with antibiotics, unrecognized and/or untreated patients may develop meningoencephalitis, myocarditis or even arthritis, particularly in the knees. Lyme disease may be brief or chronic, persistent and incapacitating. The chronic disease state may resolve in time with or without antibiotic treatment.

Borrelia burgdorferi

This scanning electron micrograph shows spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, causative agent of Lyme disease. While only 0.2-0.3 micrometers wide, the cell length may exceed 15 to 20 micrometers.

Learn more about Lyme disease.