TUESDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have determined the genetic structures of 13 strains of the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, an achievement that could speed efforts to diagnose, prevent and treat the disease.
The occurrence of Lyme disease -- which can harm the nervous system, heart, skin and joints -- has grown dramatically over the past 10 years in the United States and Europe. The disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick.
"A driving force for doing this project was the observation that certain forms of the bacteria can be more invasive than others. We wanted to find out why and how to identify this properly," Dr. Steven E. Schutzer, of the University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School (UMDNJ), said in a UMDNJ news release.
Even though the cause of Lyme disease has been known for 27 years, there still is no vaccine for humans.
"The field has been bogged down with an incomplete blueprint of the bacteria. With this new blueprint, we can now build new tests and treatments," co-author Dr. Benjamin Luft, of Stony Brook University-New York, said in the news release.
The study, which was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, appears online ahead of print in the Journal of Bacteriology.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about Lyme disease.