Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Where Did Lyme Disease Originate

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Located about off the tip of Long Island, New York, it was opened in 1954 during the Cold War with a goal of protecting livestock from animal diseases.

Some say it was opened under Project Paperclip. This was a top-secret government program to recruit Nazi scientists who were working on animal diseases during WWII. It has been suspected that more than 2000 scientists were brought here and offered employment contracts and US citizenship. One of the areas of expertise they had was experiments with disease-infected ticks.

How Lyme Disease Spreads

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, which is spread through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Infected blacklegged ticks need to be attached for at least 24 hours in order to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

Most people get Lyme disease after being bitten by:

  • nymphs, which are about the size of a poppy seed
  • adult female ticks, which are about the size of a sesame seed

You may not notice a tick bite because ticks are tiny and their bites are usually painless.

Not all blacklegged ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Blacklegged ticks are infected with the bacteria when they feed on infected animals like:

  • rodents, such as white-footed mice and chipmunks

People and other animals can get Lyme disease when an infected tick feeds on them for long enough to transmit the bacteria.

More than 40 different types of ticks live in Canada, but only 2 types spread the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease in people:

  • blacklegged ticks
  • western blacklegged ticks, common to British Columbia
  • Blacklegged ticks are most often found in or along the edge of forested areas. Tick habitats also include:

    Ticks can be active whenever the temperature is consistently above freezing and the ground isn’t covered by snow. You’re most likely to encounter ticks during the spring, summer and fall. However, when conditions are favourable, ticks can be active at any time of the year.

    Local Health Departments Should Promote Awareness And Personal Prevention

    Since personal protection is the most effective method of preventing Lyme disease, strategies aimed at promoting awareness and adoption of personal protection measures are the most important intervention that a community health department can pursue.

    • Local Health Departments can hold public presentations, visit summer camps, set up library displays, etc. For educational materials and posters, visit: MDPH Brochures and Documents. Additional information can be found at the following websites:
    • Link to Preventing Disease Spread by Ticks. This eight-page, color brochure, developed by MDPH, provides information on ticks, diseases transmitted by ticks, how to protect yourself from tick bites, how to reduce tick populations around a home, how to remove an attached tick and information on repellents. To request a copy of the brochure, please call the Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at 983-6800. To print as a booklet, print double-sided.
    • Link to Gardening Tips – Don’t let the bugs bite! This two-page document provides information for gardeners on how to avoid being bitten by ticks and mosquitoes while gardening as well as a list of MDPH educational materials on tick-borne and mosquito-borne diseases.
    • Link to “Tickborne Diseases” The website includes information about Lyme disease, babesiosis, tularemia and anaplasmosis
    • Link to Lyme disease Fact Sheet

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    Later Symptoms Of Lyme Disease

    More serious symptoms may develop if Lyme disease is left untreated or is not treated early. These can include:

    • pain and swelling in the joints
    • nerve problems such as numbness or pain in your limbs
    • memory problems
    • difficulty concentrating

    Some of these problems will get better slowly with treatment. But they can persist if treatment is started late.

    A few people with Lyme disease go on to develop long-term symptoms similar to those of fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. This is known as post-infectious Lyme disease. It’s not clear exactly why this happens. It’s likely to be related to overactivity of your immune system rather than continued infection.

    Lyme Disease: Where Did The Spirochete Come From And How Does It Live Around Here

    What is Lyme Disease? Symptoms and How to Cure it

    If the spirochete was not created in a lab, where did it come from and how does it live around here?

    Researchers studying a 5,000-year-old man preserved in an Alpine glacier, recently found genetic evidence suggesting that he had Lyme disease. So it’s been around for a long time, and was probably in the U.S. for decades or centuries before it was identified, said Kirby C. Stafford III, chief entomologist and tick expert at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

    Native Americans and early colonists probably had Lyme disease, but the infection virtually disappeared as forests were cleared and white-tailed deer were “hunted out,” Stafford said.

    People began to notice the disease when they started to encroach on areas occupied by ticks, the CDC contends.

    In 1981, Willy Burgdorfer, a microbiologist at the National Institutes of Health, isolated the bacterium and by 1982 he managed to culture it. The bacterium was named Borrelia burgdorferi in his honor.

    The Borrelia family of bacteria consists of spirochetes, spiral bacteria that have a retractable filament that allows them to swim through thick liquids, like blood.

    Spirochetes sometimes modify their shape to cope with environmental hazards. Consequently, Borrelia burgdorferi, may sometimes appear as a ambiguous blob.

    The most infamous of the Borrelia clan is Treponema pallidium, better known as the venereal disease syphilis.

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    Where Are Ticks Found

    Ticks are found throughout the UK and in other parts of Europe and North America. There are a high number of ticks in the Scottish Highlands.

    They can be found in any areas with deep or overgrown plants where they have access to animals to feed on.

    They’re common in woodland and moorland areas, but can also be found in gardens or parks.

    Life Cycle Of B Burgdorferi

    The primary vector of Lyme disease in the northeastern and north central United States is the deer tick, Ixodes scapularis. The primary vector in the Pacific coastal area of the country is I.pacificus. Ticks go through four stages in their development , and B. burgdorferi is maintained in ticks as they pass from one stage to the next. When an infected tick bites a human or certain animals , the infectious agent can be transmitted, resulting in disease. Wild rodents and deer are part of the natural life cycle of B. burgdorferi. Infected larval and nymphal ticks feed on small mammals while adult ticks feed on deer. The explosive repopulation of white-tailed deer in parts of the United States has been linked to the spread of Lyme disease. The majority of human Lyme disease cases result from bites by infected nymphs. At this stage the tick is small, less easily detected, and less likely to be promptly removed, which increases the possibility that it will transmit disease. Dogs, cattle, and horses develop disease that may include the joint and heart complications seen in humans. A vaccine is available for dogs, which in addition to protecting them, has a beneficial public health impact by decreasing the proximity of this disease to people. There is no evidence that Lyme disease has been transmitted directly from animal-to-animal, animal-to-human, or human-to-human.

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    A Complex Path To Humans

    Ironically, the deer that helped the tick population grow and spread do not become infected with the Lyme disease bacterium and cannot cause infection in ticks. But, birds and small mammals, particularly the abundant white-footed mouse, can carry the bacteria and infect immature ticks that feed on them. Infected larvae turn into infected nymphs, the source of infection for larger animals and humans.

    Adult ticks hitchhike a ride on the deer, where they mate and feed on the deers blood. When they are done, the female then drops off into the leaf litter where deer travel and lays her eggs. Each deer can support hundreds of ticks, and each female tick lays about 2,000 eggs.

    Once new tick populations are established by deer that carry them into new areas, infected ticks cause infection in mice, birds and other small mammals. New populations of deer ticks rapidly become infected with the Lyme disease bacterium as soon as they are established.

    Biological Control Of Ticks

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    In areas where Lyme disease is endemic, it is desirable to control populations of native ticks, which transmit several pathogens to humans causing Lyme and other diseases. We are seeking environmentally safe and effective means of controlling tick populations using the fungus Metarhizium anisopliae, a native species known to attack ticks under some circumstances. Our approach is considered ‘augmentative biocontrol’ because it consists of increasing the probability of contact between ticks and natural enemies, thus augmenting the effects of potential control agents.

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    Lyme Disease In The Us Originated In Europe

    The epidemic of Lyme disease in the U.S. is caused by a bacterium that has European ancestry, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that is coauthored by scientists at Yale School of Public Health and the University of Bath in England.

    Some researchers had believed the Lyme disease bacterium Borrelia Burgdorferi, which is less common in Europe, originated in the United States.

    Yale researchers and their English colleagues studied the evolutionary history of the Borrelia Burgdorferi strain by examining the sequences of eight housekeeping genes, which are known to evolve very slowly. The researchers analyzed 64 different samples of bacterial DNA from ticks collected in the field and from infected human patients at locations across Europe and the U.S. A computergenerated evolutionary tree shows that European strains are more closely related to a common ancestor than are the North American strains, indicating a European origin for the Lyme disease bacterium in the U.S.

    The team in Bath was lead by Gabriele Margos of the Department of Biology and Biochemistry.

    Lyme Disease, which causes more than 20,000 new cases each year in the US, is still spreading from the original outbreak in Lyme, Connecticut. The Yale/Bath team is continuing to study the evolution of the Lyme disease spirochete in Europe and North America hoping to understand how the disease is spreading and where future outbreaks will occur.

    Lyme Disease Continues To Expand

    The rate of Lyme disease spread has been slow compared to mosquito-borne West Nile virus, yet the current epidemic of Lyme disease is steadily increasing. It is estimated to be spreading 30 kilometers per year.

    There has been little effort to try to limit the geographic spread of infected ticks. Most control efforts have been focused on managing tick populations where they are already established. Efforts have so far have included areainsecticide application, bait stations to treat mice or deer with insecticide and vaccinating mice against the bacterium. All of these methods have had limited success in reducing Lyme disease risk, but none have been employed to limit spread.

    From an ecology perspective, the question is not why there are so many ticks, but why arent there more. At least 90% of each tick stage disappears over a single generation and we do not understand what happens to them. How many starve to death before finding a host? How many find hosts, but get removed by grooming before they can feed? How many are eaten by other animals or die from parasites? How does weather affect mortality?

    Basic research on tick ecology pales in comparison to that conducted on the bacterium and patients. If we knew what limits tick population growth in nature, we might have better insight on how to manage their spread. For now, Lyme disease will continue to expand unabated.

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    How You Get Lyme Disease

    If a tick bites an animal carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, the tick can become infected. The tick can then transfer the bacteria to a human by biting them.

    Ticks don’t jump or fly. They climb on to your clothes or skin if you brush against something they’re on. They then bite into the skin and start to feed on your blood.

    Generally, you’re more likely to become infected if the tick is attached to your skin for more than 24 hours. Ticks are very small and their bites are not painful, so you may not realise you have one attached to your skin.

    Developing Better Insect Repellents

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    CDC researchers have discovered that a naturally occurring compound called nootkatone, found in grapefruit, Alaska yellow cedar trees, and some herbs, can kill or repel ticks and insects. On August 10, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency registered nootkatone, an active ingredient discovered and developed by DVBD, for use in repellents and insecticides. CDCs work with licensed partner, Evolva, demonstrates that nootkatone effectively repels and kills mosquitoes and ticks at rates similar to products already on the market. Commercial products using the ingredient could be available as early as 2022.

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    Symptoms Of Lyme Disease

    Many people with early symptoms of Lyme disease develop a circular rash around the tick bite. The rash:

    • usually develops around 3 to 30 days after you’ve been bitten
    • is often described as looking like a bull’s-eye on a dart board
    • will be red and the edges may feel slightly raised
    • may get bigger over several days or weeks
    • is typically around 15 cm across, but it can be much larger or smaller

    Some people may develop several rashes in different parts of their body.

    Around 1 in 3 people with Lyme disease won’t develop a rash.

    Diagnosis Of Lyme Disease

    Diagnosis is currently based on clinical findings supported by several types of laboratory tests. One type of test seeks to isolate the actual organism from the EM skin lesion, blood, joints, and cerebrospinal fluid. Other types of tests attempt to detect antibodies formed by the patients immune system against the organism. Currently, serology tests are poorly standardized and physicians must interpret them with caution. They are insensitive during the first several weeks of infection and may remain negative in people treated early with antibiotics. Test sensitivity increases when patients progress to later stages of the disease, but a small proportion of Lyme disease patients never develop a positive blood test result. Another complicating factor is that there can be a cross-reaction in the blood test, giving a false positive result for Lyme disease in persons who really have conditions such as syphilis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, human immunodeficiency virus infection, infectious mononucleosis, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Although present diagnostics are not perfect, great strides have been made in the past twenty years. More sensitive and specific tests for Lyme disease are being developed.

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    Lyme Disease Prevalence & Mice

    White-footed mice are the principal natural reservoirs for Lyme disease bacteria. Ticks that feed on mice are highly likely to become infected, making them capable of transmitting Lyme disease to people during their next blood meal. When they feed on mice during their larval and nymphal stages, ticks are more likely to survive and molt. Ticks that feed other vertebrate host species have a comparatively lower survivorship. Consequently, we have hypothesized that the greater the abundance of mice during the midsummer peak in larval tick feeding activity, the greater the probability that questing larval ticks will encounter a mouse, and the higher the probability that they will molt into an infected nymph capable of transmitting Lyme bacteria one year later.

    Our long-term monitoring of mouse abundance, tick abundance and infection prevalence in southeastern New York State supports these hypotheses. In addition, because we have demonstrated a correlation between acorn production and mouse abundance the following year, we have hypothesized that acorn abundance is a good predictor of abundance and infections prevalence of ticks almost two years in advance. This hypothesis also is supported by our monitoring data.

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    The U.S. House of Representatives has just passed a measure calling for a federal investigation into any link between the possible weaponization of ticks by the U.S. military and Lyme disease.

    Several books and articles have found that there is such a link and have pointed to activities on Plum Island, a mile-and-a-half off Orient Point and northeast of Shelter Island. Lyme disease is named for Old Lyme, Connecticut, 10 miles from Plum Island, where it was first identified.

    The sponsor of the measure is Representative Chris Smith, a Republican in his 21st term in the House and considered the dean of the New Jersey delegation in the House. Lyme disease has long been a focus he is co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Lyme Disease Caucus.

    His bill, in the form of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, was part of a package of amendments to the annual National Defense Authorization Act which passed the House by a vote of 360 to 66 on September 23. It has been sent to the U.S. Senate for its consideration.

    This is the third year in a row such a measure introduced by Mr. Smith has passed in the House. But neither, in 2019 and 2020, received Senate approval.

    Americans deserve the Truth: Did DOD Weaponize Ticks with Lyme Disease? was the headline on September 22 in the Congressional Record as the Smith measure came before the House. The Congressional Record is the official account published by Congress of its proceedings.

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    What Good Are Ticks

    Like most living things, ticks serve a purpose in the balance of the ecosystem and have a role in the animal kingdom. They provide food for other animals. Ticks may feed on a lot of mammals, but they often become a meal themselves. Many animals eat ticks, including reptiles and birds.

    Scientists monitor tick populations to assess ecosystems. Where ticks are abundant, populations of smaller mammals, such as rodents and rabbits, may also be high. A low-tick population can indicate that predators may be getting out of control. Everything is interconnected in the animal kingdom.

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