Lone Star Ticks 
Author Message
 Lone Star Ticks

Jan. 22, 1998

DETECTIVE WORK UNCOVERS NEW TICK-BORNE DISEASE
IN NORTH CAROLINA AND THE SOUTHEAST

DURHAM, N.C. -- Kathryn Kirkland spent two years in the woods of North
Carolina on the trail of an elusive, {*filter*}-sucking pest, dubbed Lone
Star, that left rashes on the skin of its victims and anxiety in their
minds.

But due to her slick detective work on ticks, Kirkland has determined
that people who live in the southeastern states aren't contracting Lyme
Disease, as was suspected, but something else that seems to be a tamer
cousin.

Between a fellowship at Duke University Medical Center and a post in
Duke's Division of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Kirkland worked for the
federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as an epidemic intelligence
officer. Assigned to the North Carolina Health Department, she was put
on the case of a mysterious tick-born rash that cropped up in the middle
of the state.

Ticks were running amok in an outdoor camp for girls. In two months, 324
ticks were removed from the residents and staff and some of the bites
were followed by a circular red inflamed ring, akin to the rash seen in
people bitten by ticks infected with the Lyme disease bacteria.

Of the 12,000 cases of suspected Lyme disease recorded by the CDC in
1995, the majority, by far, came from northern states where the disease
is carried by the deer tick, which isn't prevalent in the South. Yet
similar rashes were also reported by physicians from southeastern
states, including North Carolina. But the CDC was unable to isolate the
microorganism that causes Lyme disease from skin samples taken from 70
southern patients.

So the question Kirkland wanted to answer was: Is a different kind of
tick carrying Lyme disease? And, if not, what sort of disorder is this?

First, the easy part. The ticks in question at the camp go by the name
of Lone Star because the female displays a distinctive white spot on the
back of its shell. The Lone Star is very common in North Carolina. It is
brownish-orange and smaller than the other tick normally in residence -
the dog tick, which is large, grayish-brownish-black, and the scourge of
every pet and its owner.

But the researchers didn't know what genre of organism Lone Star ticks
at the camp might be carrying. Ticks, as well as mites, fleas and lice,
can carry rickettsiae, which share features of both bacteria and
viruses. Like bacteria, rickettsiae have cell walls and enzymes, use
oxygen, and can be destroyed by antibiotics. Like viruses, they can live
and multiply only inside cells. In fact, after infecting their prey,
they live inside the cells lining small {*filter*} vessels, causing the
vessels to become inflamed or blocked and to bleed.

The best known example of a rickettsiael disease is Rocky Mountain
Spotted Fever transmitted by dog ticks, which, if untreated, produces a
fever, headache, rash, and a systemic illness that can range from mild
to deadly. Lone Star ticks have been associated with ehrlichiosis, a
disease that can produce the same symptoms as Rocky Mountain Spotted
Fever, but without a telltale rash.

As alarming as these diseases can be, only about 5 percent of ticks
shepherd such microorganisms, and infections can be cured if a patient
is given a course of antibiotics early.

Then there are spirochetal infections, such as Lyme disease. Spirochetes
are corkscrew-shaped bacteria that move by undulating. Once introduced
into the skin, the bacteria can migrate outward and spread in the lymph
or through the {*filter*} to other organs. Untreated, the infection can
involve the joints, the nervous system and result in chronic disease.

Kirkland suspected the campers were being infected by a spirochete
bacterium, because the rash resembled that of Lyme disease. She led a
team of researchers who set up shop at the camp. Logs were made of all
the ticks collected, and whom they were removed from and when, and they
took {*filter*} and skin samples.

They checked animals in the area for ticks and scoured the ground for
evidence. In all, 14 people in the camp developed a rash from a Lone
Star tick bite, and 10 of them developed a mild systemic illness. They
were treated with an antibiotic and they quickly recovered. During the
same period, several other camp dwellers developed Rocky Mountain
Spotted Fever or ehrlichiosis. One person died.

Kirkland's research, published in the December 1997 issue of the
journal, Archives of Internal Medicine, solves one riddle - it rules out
Lyme disease as the cause of the infection. The rashes sported by
campers were slightly smaller and more irregular in shape compared to
the Lyme disease rash. And they seemed to follow the bite of the Star
tick, which has never been associated with Lyme disease. And none of the
14 campers with the rash showed any laboratory evidence of infection
with the spirochete that causes Lyme disease.

But she says it raises more questions than it answers. The organisms
that cause the rash haven't been isolated yet, and she doesn't know if
the infection, if allowed to progress, would produce the same health
problems associated with untreated Lyme disease. Or it could be a milder
relative.

One thing Kirkland is sure about, however: people living in North
Carolina, as in many parts of the country, should check themselves for
ticks if they have been walking in tall grass and woodsy areas.

"Ticks are ubiquitous in the Southeast and people who live here have to
find a balance between being suspicious of the ticks they come across
without being alarmed," she says. "In a word, be vigilant."



Fri, 14 Jul 2000 03:00:00 GMT
 Lone Star Ticks

Notes:

The bites of deer ticks, Ixodes Scapularis, were not involved
in this particular camp.  A large ECM rash followin the bite
of in Ixodic tick, or a classic bulls-eye rash, are a far far
different thing than this isolated and single enzootic focus
of infection.  There are loads of deer in North Carolina,
and there are ixodes ticks.  See Handbook of Zoonoses, Second Edition,
SectionA:  Bacterial, Rickettsial, Chlamydia, and Mycotic.
Beran, George W., editor,  and Steele, Consuoting editor.
CRC press, Inc. 1994, pages 265 to 280, with David T. Dennis,
Pat Coyle, Susan E. Lance, and others....

Regards,

Dave



Sat, 15 Jul 2000 03:00:00 GMT
 Lone Star Ticks

Notes:

The bites of deer ticks, Ixodes Scapularis, were not involved
in this particular camp.  A large ECM rash followin the bite
of in Ixodic tick, or a classic bulls-eye rash, are a far far
different thing than this isolated and single enzootic focus
of infection.  There are loads of deer in North Carolina,
and there are ixodes ticks.  See Handbook of Zoonoses, Second Edition,
SectionA:  Bacterial, Rickettsial, Chlamydia, and Mycotic.
Beran, George W., editor,  and Steele, James H. Consulting editor.
CRC press, Inc. 1994, pages 265 to 280, with David T. Dennis,
Pat Coyle, Susan E. Lance, and others....  Michael Torten as Editor for
SPirochetal Zoonoses and Retroviral Diseases.

Regards,

Dave



Sat, 15 Jul 2000 03:00:00 GMT
 
 [ 3 post ] 

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