Researchers have found clues that might lead
occurs when a person becomes infected with a tick-borne bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi.
Initial symptoms typically include general fatigue, fever, skin rashes, and headaches.
Although doctors can often treat Lyme disease with antibiotics, if they do not catch it early, the bacteria can cause long-term issues with the individual’s joints.
In fact, following infection with B. burgdorferi, about 60% of people develop a condition called Lyme arthritis, the hallmarks of which are inflamed and painful joints.
Lyme arthritis can persist for months or even years in some cases.
Researchers are still unsure why joint symptoms can continue long after antibiotics have destroyed the bacteria.
Lyme disease in numbers
Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) receive reports of close to 30,000 cases of Lyme disease among the United States population.
However, the true number of cases is likely to be much higher. In fact, the CDC estimate that there might be up to 300,000 cases each year.
According to the CDC, reports of Lyme disease have tripled since the late 1990s, and overall, tick-borne diseases are becoming more prevalent. This increase is due, at least in part, to rising global temperatures.
Due to the steady growth in the number of cases, scientists are keen to uncover more effective ways of treating the long-term symptoms.
One researcher who has embarked on this mission is Brandon Jutras from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. He and his team have the spent the last few years trying to understand what drives Lyme arthritis.
Among the scientists who contributed to the most recent work was Prof. Allen Steere, one of the doctors who discovered and named Lyme disease.
The researchers published their most recent findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.