Lyme disease or Lyme borreliosis, which is caused by three groups of the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, is transmitted in North America, Europe, and Asia by ticks of the Ixodes ricinus complex. The primary areas around the world that are now affected by Lyme disease are near the terminal moraine of the glaciers 15,000 years ago. The emergence of Lyme disease in the United States in this century is thought to have occurred because of ecological conditions favorable for deer. From 1982 through 1991, 40,195 cases occurring in 47 states were reported to the Centers for Disease Control, but enzootic cycles of B. burgdorferi have been identified in only 19 states. During the last several decades, the disease has spread to new areas and has caused focal outbreaks, including locations near Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Lyme disease is like syphilis in its multisystem involvement, occurrence in stages, and mimicry of other diseases. Diagnosis of late neurologic abnormalities of the disorder has created the most difficulty. A recent phenomenon is that a number of poorly understood conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, are misdiagnosed as "chronic Lyme disease." Part of the reason for misdiagnosis is due to problems associated with diagnostic tests. The various manifestations of Lyme disease can usually be treated successfully with oral doxycycline or amoxicillin, except for objective neurologic manifestations, which seem to require intravenous therapy. Vector control of tick-borne diseases has been difficult and, therefore, reduction of the risk of infection has been limited primarily to personal protection measures.

This work was supported in part by Grant AR-20358 from the National Institutes of Health.


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