New York State Department of Health Article On Lyme Disease Research Featured In Prestigious Publication

Wadsworth Center Researchers Publish Article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 29, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health announced today that an article about Lyme disease by department researchers was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Findings displayed how Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease,interacts with the immune system, which is key to understanding how the bacterium establishes infection, disseminates, and persists in the body.

"Lyme disease can be a serious condition that can lead to significant health problems such as inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, heart palpitations, and arthritis," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "I am so proud of the outstanding work of our researchers because they are educating others, which is an important part of public service."

Wadsworth Center Director Dr. Leonard Peruski said: "This work addresses an issue that is important to New York residents. Lyme disease can be very debilitating and it's important to highlight extensive research on how it affects the body."

Wadsworth Center Scientist Dr. Yi-Pin Lin, lead corresponding author, said: "I am grateful to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for publishing this work. Lyme disease can have severe complications if left untreated, and the Department wants to ensure that everyone has the knowledge to stay safe and healthy this summer."

Lyme disease, caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, is an infection spread to humans through the bite of infected black-legged ticks (or deer ticks). It is the most prevalent tick-borne disease in New York and, since 1986, has been included among the diseases that are reportable to the Department. Lyme disease can affect people of any age and a vaccine is not available.

Early symptoms of the disease usually appear within three to 30 days after the bite of an infected tick. In 60-80% of cases, a circular bull's eye rash about two inches in diameter, called erythema migrans, appears, and expands around or near the site of the tick bite. Sometimes, multiple rash sites appear.

One or more of the following symptoms usually mark the early stage of Lyme disease: chills and fever, headache, fatigue, stiff neck, muscle and/or joint pain, and swollen glands. If Lyme disease is unrecognized or untreated in the early stage, more severe symptoms may occur. As the disease progresses, severe fatigue, a stiff aching neck, tingling or numbness in the arms and legs, or facial paralysis can occur. The most severe symptoms of Lyme disease may not appear until weeks, months, or years after the tick bite. These can include severe headaches, painful arthritis, swelling of the joints, and heart and central nervous system problems.

The best prevention of Lyme disease is through awareness. Generally, ticks cannot jump or fly onto a person and they wait in vegetation and cling to animals and humans when they brush by. When in a potentially tick-infested habitat (wooded and grassy areas) take special care to prevent tick bites by wearing light-colored clothing (for easy tick discovery) and tucking pants into socks and shirt into pants. Check after every two to three hours of outdoor activity for ticks on clothing or skin. Brush off any ticks on clothing or skin before skin attachment occurs. A thorough check of body surfaces for attached ticks should be done at the end of the day. If the removal of attached ticks occurs within 36 hours, the risk of tick-borne infection is minimal. Insect repellents can be effective at reducing bites from ticks that can spread disease.

The Department remains committed to ensuring that New York residents have all the necessary information about Lyme disease they need to remain safe this summer.

  • The Lyme Disease Fact Sheet can be found here.
  • The Lyme Disease and Other Diseases Carried by Ticks page can be found here.
  • The Proper Tick Removal Video can be found here.
  • Repellents: Protection against Mosquitoes, Ticks, and Other Arthropods can be found here.

Contributors to the article, Structural evolution of an immune evasion determinant shapes pathogen host tropism, include first author Ashley L. Marcinkiewicz, Kalvis Brangulis, Alan P. Dupuis II, Thomas M. Hart, Maxime Zamba‐Campero, Tristan A. Nowak, Jessica L. Stout, Inara Akopjana, Andris Kazaks, Janis Bogans, Alexander T. Ciota, Peter Kraiczy, Sergios-Orestis Kolokotronis, and Yi-Pin Lin. It was published on June 26.