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Research About Lyme Disease

Although the link between tick bites and Lyme disease was proved in the 1970’s, the presence of the bacteria named Borrelia burgdorferi was not discovered until a few years later, when an entomologist called Willy Burgdorfer, MD, Ph.D (National Institutes of Health) was conducting tests on tick species which included the genus Ixodes. Burgdorfer discovered a spirochetes (a type of thin, spiral shaped bacteria) present in the tick’s body, which was later found to be the cause of Lyme disease and was named Borrelia burgdorferi after him.

Further Research

Research into Lyme disease is still ongoing, and a large body of evidence has been collated since the discovery on the Borrelia burgdorferi spirochetes, which provides more information on how this bacterium infects the host system. Currently Lyme disease is treated with short term antibiotics, but there is compelling evidence to show that Borrelia burgdorferi can disguise itself and literally ‘hide’ from antibiotics, and so can remain in the body long after treatment has finished. Although chronic Lyme disease is not recognized by leading health authorities such as the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), there is a large body of evidence from real life cases which shows that this can affect patients with long term symptoms, despite the recommended antibiotic treatments.

May is officially Lyme disease awareness month and this is one of the key times of year when cases of this condition rise, as ticks start feeding voraciously in preparation for the breeding period.  Lyme disease is now one of the most prevalent insect-borne diseases in the Northern Hemisphere, and is passed to humans through the bites of infected ticks.  Although all species of ticks can pass on diseases scientist have identified the genus Ixodes as being the prime carriers of the bacteria which causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi.  These ticks are common throughout many parts of the United States and key habitats include woodland and wild land edges, where they can find an abundance of their main prey, deer and small rodents.  Ticks will also feed on any domestic pets and humans they come into contact with, and because they are so small they can be difficult to detect.

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Lyme Disease on the RiseTwo adult ticks waiting for preyDespite many advances in modern medicine there are still a number of age old diseases that are on the rise, including the insect-borne condition Lyme disease.Lyme disease is prevalent in mainland USA, particularly in the mid and also the eastern states and is passed to humans and also domestic animals by the bites of infected ticks.  The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported recently that the number or amount of Lyme disease cases in January and February 2010 has risen by as much as two thirds over figures recorded 5 years ago, and this pattern seems to be in evidence in high risk Lyme disease areas across the United States.

Why is Lyme Risk on the Rise? One of the main reasons experts believe Lyme disease is growing more prevalent is the increasing demands on ecological systems, which are creating ideal environments for ticks to breed and spread, bringing them into closer contact with humans.  Commercial forest management causes the balance of natural wild ecological systems to be significantly altered, resulting in woodland clearing which provides ideal habitats for the prey of ticks to flourish, such as mice, rabbits, deer and other small mammals and so in turn the tick populations also increase.  This combined with the fact that wild land and urban areas are growing ever closer together means that there are more ticks patrolling woodland edges for prey, and more and more humans living and working in tick habitats, which increases the likelihood that people are going to be or may be infected with tick borne disease such as Lyme disease.

It is also important that pet owners use the right tick control methods, and for those living in high risk areas it is best to stick to veterinary-quality products as these offer a much higher level of effectiveness against ticks (90% or above) than the equivalent over-the-counter versions, so although this will cost more and will have to be sourced from your vet you will be able to provide more protection for your pet against Lyme disease.


Treating Lyme DiseaseSo, what treatments are available for those suffering with Lyme disease?The main problem that one may consider with Lyme disease is although it can be treated with antibiotics quickly if caught in the early stages, if left untreated it can develop into some serious and potentially debilitating diseases such as Lyme arthritis.  Lyme disease is caused by the infection of bacteria known as B.burgdorferi and this can spread quickly throughout the body through the blood and lymph systems and can be carried to key organs which can result in serious problems with the heart and nervous system.  Lyme disease is difficult to detect, as it can take anywhere from 3-30 days (or even longer) to manifest any physical symptoms, and by this time the sufferer may not realize their symptoms are connected to a tick bite, or in some cases may not have even realized they had been bitten in the first place.

Compounding this problem is the fact that there are no reliable tests as yet easily available to test for B.burgdorferi in the early stages, and it is not until the bacteria has become more widely spread in the system that blood tests can be effective at identifying the infection, at which point it is much more difficult to treat and may have already caused a number of unpleasant symptoms such as joint pain, fatigue and skin problems.Close up of adult tick.

Residents in Maine and also other areas in the US that have had cases of or are plagued with tick borne diseases are well aware of the risks of contracting Lyme disease from coming into contact with ticks, and this can make campers, hikers and hunters very nervous about visiting the forest and wild land areas, as even when the disease is caught early on it can still leave debilitating symptoms for months and even years after the initial infection has passed.  Preventive measures such as wearing boots and full leg and arm coverings, avoiding long grass and undergrowth and checking for ticks before you return to your car and home can help to reduce the risks of tick bites, but there is still no really effective way to really prevent ticks from passing on the Lyme disease infection.


Lyme Disease: My Journey To Health