New Tick-borne Disease Discovered in Northeastern China

Posted on May 24, 2015

Researchers from China and the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) have discovered a new tick-borne disease in northeastern China. The researchers say the disease could be a "substantial human threat." The bacterial species that causes the disease is new to science. It has been named Anaplasma capra.

J. Stephen Dumler, MD, a professor of pathology at UM SOM says in a statement, "This is an entirely new species of bacteria. This had never been seen in humans before. We still have a lot to learn about this species, but it may be that this bacteria is infecting humans over a wide area."

The researchers test 477 patients in northeastern China that had recently been bitten by a tick. They found that 28 of them (6%) were infected by the newly discovered bacteria. The researchers believe the disease is spread by the taiga tick species, which is related to the deer tick. Symptoms of the illness include fever, headache, lethargy, dizziness and muscle aches. It can be treated with antibiotics.

Dumler told CBS News that U.S. residents don't have to worry yet about this particular tick. However, there are plenty of U.S. ticks that remain a concern. Dumler says, "My answer is 'not now.' But keep using the same precautions you've always used to protect yourself, your family, and your pets from ticks, just in case."

A research paper on the new tick disease was published here in the journal, Lancet Infectious Disease.