1. Department of Public Health, University of North Florida, 1 UNF Drive, Jacksonville, Florida USA 32224;
2. Current address: Department of Pathobiological Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA 70803;
3. Mandarin Wellness Center, Jacksonville, Florida, USA 32257.
The aim of this study was to determine the cause of illness in several human patients residing in Florida and Georgia, USA, with suspected Lyme disease based upon EM-like skin lesions and/or symptoms consistent with early localized or late disseminated Lyme borreliosis. Using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays developed specifically for Lyme group Borrelia spp., followed by DNA sequencing for confirmation, we identified Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato DNA in samples of blood and skin and also in lone star ticks (Amblyomma americanum) removed from several patients who either live in or were exposed to ticks in Florida or Georgia. This is the first report to present combined PCR and DNA sequence evidence of infection with Lyme Borrelia spp. in human patients in the southern U.S., and to demonstrate that several B. burgdorferi sensu lato species may be associated with Lyme disease-like signs and symptoms in southern states. Based on the findings of this study, we suggest that human Lyme borreliosis occurs in Florida and Georgia, and that some cases of Lyme-like illness referred to as southern tick associated rash illness (STARI) in the southern U.S. may be attributable to previously undetected B. burgdorferi sensu lato infections.
Keywords: Lyme borreliosis, Florida, Georgia