In a daily dose of "ick", the Air Force's 96th Medical Group says their lab was one of the first to spot a rare, spiral bacteria uncommon to humans.
The bacteria, Borrelia turicatae — which has been known to display side effects of relapsing fever such as chills, nausea, anemia, among others — was found in a soldier, the Centers for Disease Control recently confirmed.
The 96th Medical Group's lab technician, Dolli Lane, discovered its strange shape when looking for malaria in the sick soldier's blood, according to an Air Force release. Spirochetes, the type of bacteria, are only visible if the blood sample is drawn during a patient's fever spike, the release said.
Microbiologists, pathologists and infectious disease doctors from the Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, group's hospital analyzed the sample and sent the results to the CDC to dissect the bacteria's DNA.
"This infection doesn't happen very often," Maj. Dr. Benjamin Stermole, the base's infectologist, said. "The ability to culture this bacteria allows us to study it on a level we haven't been able to before."
Stermole is right — only a handful of case studies exist on Borrelia turicatae infections, most of which doctors and pathologists say are underdiagnosed in the first place.
"Likely at-risk populations include outdoor enthusiasts, military ground personnel, and those living in primitive housing conditions," one 2013 case study published in the US National Library of Medicine says.
The Air Force said the soldier, unnamed for privacy, most likely contracted the bacteria from a tick bite, a vector for Borrelia turicatae, while living in an old stable during a field exercise in west Texas.
The patient was given antibiotics soon after the diagnosis and recovered quickly within 24 hours, the release said.