Master's Disease or "STARI"
Master's Disease (aka STARI) was described in the early 1990's by Dr. Ed Masters of Cape Girardeau, MO, when a number of people were bitten by lone star ticks and developed Lyme disease symptoms. Many patients had a classic rash, nearly identical to the one described in people infected with the more well known strain of Lyme, however, the standard Lyme disease tests were not able to detect evidence of the infection in humans.
Recently DNA from a strain of spirochete similar to the one that causes Lyme disease was detected in lone star ticks collected from nine different states, according to the US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine in Aberdeen, MD. Borrelia lonestari, or STARI (Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness), the nick name used to describe this strain, was also detected in the blood of white tail deer, in Sika deer skin samples, and in ticks removed from wild raccoons. In 2004, visualization of live lonestari spirochetes were reported for the first time by researchers at the University of Georgia using dark field microscopy.
According to the CDC, a skin biopsy from a rash resembling the one that can appear in Lyme disease patients was tested for the Borrelia lonestari. The patient reportedly had exposure to ticks in Maryland and North Carolina. The biopsy of the Lyme-like rash, along with the tick that was removed from the patient, both showed evidence of the lonestari strain. Standard blood tests for Lyme disease again failed to detect the presence of infection from this strain of Lyme disease.
People who have been told they do not have Lyme disease and/or who were denied treatment based on negative blood tests should be re-evaluated by an experienced physician if they remain ill, have fluctuating symptoms, or develop additional symptoms. Anyone who has been denied treatment because the tick that bit them was not a "deer tick" may want to take a closer look for the source of any ongoing or worsening symptoms they may be experiencing.
Lone star ticks are able to transmit STARI to humans, as well as a number of other tick borne diseases, such as Erhlichiosis (various strains), Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia (rabbit fever), and possibly additional, yet to be discovered, bacteria and viruses. Some of these infections can become chronic or fatal if not promptly or properly treated.
Lone star ticks, Amblyomma americanum, have been found in approximately half of the states in the US. They have also been collected from migrating birds returning to Canada from southern locations. The ticks current known range in the US extends from Texas to Oklahoma, eastward towards the Atlantic coast, and northward to Maine. These ticks are extremely aggressive and actively search for blood meals. Residents from areas with high tick populations have reported removing over 100 of these ticks after a single outing.
Adult lone star ticks are larger than deer ticks, however, the nymph stage ticks can be as small as the period at the end of this sentence. A light colored patch, or star, is displayed on the back of adult female ticks, giving the tick their common name.
Ticks infected with STARI have been found just outside major city limits, posing risks to rural residents and city dwellers alike. Cardinals, wrens, sparrows, woodpeckers, brown thrashers, wild turkeys, bobwhite quails, and other birds are known to transport ticks from site to site. Raccoons, opossum, fox, squirrels, rabbits, mice, and deer are also hosts to this species of tick and provide necessary blood meals during their various stages of growth.
People infected with STARI may develop the rash that may also be seen in approximately 50 percent of the patients who have the more well known strain of Lyme disease. Other STARI symptoms can include fatigue, headaches, possible fever, muscle aches, stiff neck, and joint pains. Untreated or under treated STARI has not yet been documented by the CDC to cause the same debilitating effects found in chronic Lyme disease patients with the similar strain, however, research is ongoing and by no means, complete. The International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), has noted in the past, "surveillance studies show that these patients [seronegative] may have a similar risk of developing persistent, recurrent, and refractory Lyme disease compared with the seropositive population."
The CDC has recently been requesting samples of blood, urine, and skin biopsies from suspected STARI patients in order to study this specific strain. Unfortunately, the current standard Lyme disease tests on the market were not developed to detect evidence of infection from a variety of strains of spirochetes found in ticks. As experienced physicians know, these standard tests are very limited in their ability to aid in a proper clinical diagnosis of tick borne diseases. The discovery of this specific strain of Lyme may help explain why ILADS has noted that up to 90 percent of people with Lyme disease are being missed using the current two-tier testing procedures. This outdated testing method is still recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, the Territorial Public Health Laboratory Directors, and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as a diagnostic tool, however they warn that negative tests are not to be used to rule out Lyme disease.
According to Dr. Nick Harris, the Western Blot and PCR Lyme tests developed for use at IGeneX Lab in California are broad enough to be able to detect various Borrelia strains across the US, rather than just one single strain. "IGeneX tests are sensitive to the lonestari variety of Borrelia, as well as burgdorferi," explains Harris. Patients with various strains of Lyme have been detected in a number of states. IGeneX Lab offers testing for other tick borne infections such as Babesiosis, Erhlichiosis, and Bartonella.
Lyme disease is the fastest growing infectious disease in the nation. The CDC and state health departments admit considerable underreporting of Lyme disease, with as many as 7-12 cases being missed for each one reported in some states.
A knowledgeable doctor, use of a high quality lab for testing, and a proper tick borne disease diagnosis and treatment would be especially important to people in endemic areas who continue to have fluctuating or relapsing symptoms and/or have developed late stage neurological, arthritic, psychological, or other related Lyme disease symptoms. Untreated or improperly treated Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) can become a devastating chronic illness that can severely affect individuals, as well as entire families.
Late stage or chronic Lyme disease symptoms can mimic other diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimers, MS, Lou Gehrigs (ALS), depression, arthritis, Scleroderma, Lupus, heart problems, chronic fatigue syndrome, Fibromyalgia, ADD, panic attacks, pain syndromes, thyroid disorders, or other conditions.
Although no official treatment protocol has yet been standardized for this specific strain of Borrelia, antibiotics normally prescribed for acute or chronic Lyme disease have been provided to patients suspected of having STARI, and the patients have improved.
For more information please contact flash.lymenet.org
Lyme Disease Association--toll free at 1-888-366-6611
International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS)