The discovery of a cellular cause of Lyme disease by a biochemist at Virginia Tech opens a window that could lead to prevention.
Lyme arthritis, a painful condition that is a symptom of late-stage disease, is caused in part by a cell molecule called peptidoglycan, which is spilled by Lyme-causing bacteria. This emerges from a study published on Monday by Brandon Jutras.
Lyme is a bacterial disease that was first discovered in New England in 1
Jutras' study was published Monday in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Natural Sciences" could be a key to the diagnosis and treatment of persistent disease.
"This is an important finding, and we believe that this has significant implications for many manifestations of Lyme disease, not just Lyme arthritis," said Jutras.
] He and his coworkers discovered that as a bacterium that causes Lyme proliferation, it releases the molecule peptidoglycan, which penetrates into human joints. Some patients then develop an antibody reaction that swells the joints, especially the knees.
Lyme arthritis is often treatable with antibiotics, but sometimes persists. According to Jutras, doctors often have to turn to treating the symptoms rather than the cause, which is not ideal.
The next step that Jutras begins to explore in mice is to find ways to diagnose Lyme arthritis and completely prevent the disease. His latest discovery offers a window to make this possible, he said.
"We are working to find a way to target the molecule and destroy it," said Jutras.
He also studies other molecules that may bind to peptidoglycan to prevent a negative reaction from the body.
The study of Lyme disease is incredibly important as it spreads across Virginia and the entire nation, Jutras said.
In 2017, the last year with available data, Virginia had more than 1,000 confirmed cases of tick-borne illness, according to the Center for Disease Control. Larry Hill, a spokesperson for Virginia's Department of Health, said the actual number of cases is likely to be ten times higher. Since the Roanoke Valley and the New River Valley are usually more affected by Lyme disease than other regions in Virginia, people should be on the lookout for ticks.