Lyme disease can be stopped by using cholesterol-lowering statins at the source, according to research. Coauthor of the study Janakiram Seshu said, “Roughly 300,000 cases of Lyme disease are estimated to occur in the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention every year. One of the questions we’re asking is how Lyme disease can be stopped before it’s transmitted from ticks to humans.”
The researchers uncovered that statins can reduce the burden of infection in mice – which can be exploited to reduce the number of Lyme disease bacteria transmitted to the feeding ticks. This could be an effective remedy to combat Lyme disease by targeting bacteria at the source.
Seshu added, “We’ve figured out that there’s one enzyme in the Lyme disease bacteria that is essential for creating its cell wall, which would allow the Lyme disease bacteria to live and cause infection. We discovered that this enzyme can be inhibited by statins, which means that one class of drugs could reduce the number of infectious bacteria in the reservoir hosts.”
The study has only been conducted on experimental models, so additional research is required to confirm the findings. Seshu concluded, “First, we want to determine how statins can be used to stop the growth of the pathogen and how we can exploit these findings to our benefit. Our hope is that if we reduce the number of viable organisms in infected reservoir hosts then we can block the transmission to a point that the disease doesn’t affect humans significantly in many areas of the U.S.”
How can Lyme disease be transmitted?
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is spread by the bite of an infected tick. The blacklegged tick (or deer tick, Ixodes scapularis) spreads the disease in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central United States. The western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) spreads the disease on the Pacific Coast.
Although ticks can latch onto any part of the body, they often end up in hard to see places like the groin or armpits. The longer the tick is attached, the greater the risk of contracting Lyme disease. It’s estimated that a tick must be latched on for at least 36 to 48 hours before the bacteria can be transmitted.
Majority of Lyme disease cases are a result of nymphs, which are immature ticks that are tiny – and very difficult to see.
So far, Lyme disease has only be confirmed to be transmitted from a tick bite to a human and cannot be passed on from person to person.
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