Scientists Decode Lyme Disease Genome

ticks that cause Lyme disease, female and male
Male and female ticks that can spread Lyme disease. (AP Photo)

(CBS) Are better treatments for Lyme disease on the horizon? Things are looking up, scientists say, thanks to new research into the genetic make-up of the bacteria that cause the tick-borne illness.

The research yielded complete genetic blueprints of the 13 different strains of bacteria that cause Lyme, according to a statement released by the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, where the research was conducted.

In addition to leading to new treatments, scientists at the university say the decoded genome could speed development of new ways to prevent and diagnose Lyme disease.

The disease, which has become more prevalent in recent years, can affect the nervous system, heart, skin and joints. Early symptoms include chills, fever, lethargy, and a bulls-eye rash at the site of the tick bite.

Some Lyme patients fare worse than others - perhaps, scientists say, because some Lyme bacteria are more virulent.

"We wanted to find out why and how to identify this property," lead researcher Dr. Steven E. Schutzer said in  the statement.

The research was published online in the Journal of Bacteriology.

Read more about Lyme disease.