By mapping out the genetic code of different strains of lyme disease, scientists are figuring out why some of the symptoms of lyme disease linger for extended periods of time. Certain strains of the Lyme bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) have a protective outer layer. This layer has a protein that is seen as the armor against the human immune system. This protein gives the bacteria a better chance of spreading, and is most likely why symptoms can persist for long periods of time. Tests for lyme disease have previously only looked at the antibodies to allow for treatment, but never the bacteria itself. After looking more into the bacteria, it was determined that if a person had lyme disease that was deemed disseminated, spread beyond the site of the original bite, this put the person at risk for developing lingering lyme disease symptoms. There are different strains of lyme disease, and while we are unsure of how many there are, there has been evidence suggesting that the type of strain will tell the severity and length of the symptoms. In addition, it is likely that other factors are building into the persistence and severity of these symptoms, and that this isn't just due to the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria.
About half a million are annually affected by lyme disease, which is identified as a vector-borne illness. Of those half a million people affected by lyme disease, a good number of those people struggle with long lasting and severe symptoms. By finding the bacteria and armored proteins, there may be a way to alleviate or shorten the symptoms of lyme disease.