The incidence of reported cases of tickborne diseases in the United States has significantly increased in recent years. It is expected to continue to grow as tick species expand their geographical reach and new tick-transmitted pathogens emerge, raising the potential for serious human illness and death. A new strategic research plan from the National Institutes of Health aims to build on — and accelerate — new and existing research initiatives to improve scientific understanding of ticks and the pathogens they may transmit and to develop the necessary tools and strategies to better diagnose, prevent and treat tickborne diseases.
What does an anti-alcoholism drug have to do with Lyme disease? Nothing—until a 2016 study funded by Bay Area Lyme Foundation found a link.
I’m the author of “BITTEN: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons,” and I’d like to discuss some of the points you raised in your article in “The Conversation.”
First, I heartily agree that the Lyme bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, would be an “unlikely weapon.” This organism reproduces very slowly and it can’t be mass produced in large volumes like other tick-borne agents, such as Tularemia. The evidence laid out in BITTEN leads us to believe that a different organism, likely a rickettsia-viral hybrid, was made more virulent by military scientists and that Willy was asked to cover it up. As with this article, the Lyme bacterium, first described in a journal in 1982, appears to be a convenient misdirection to what the military doesn’t want us to see.
I strongly disagree your statement that “the most important characteristics of a biowarfare agent is its ability to quickly disable target soldiers.” In 1953 the U.S. biological weapons program started weaponizing fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes by infecting them with either lethal or slow-acting incapacitating microbes, depending on the military objective.
The Army explained: “In 1953 the Biological Warfare Laboratories at Fort Detrick established a program to study the use of arthropods for spreading anti-personnel BW agents. The advantages of arthropods as BW carriers are these: they inject the agent directly into the body, so that a mask is no protection to a soldier, and they will remain alive for some time, keeping an area constantly dangerous.” Source: U.S. Army Chemical Corps, “Summary of Major Events and Problems (Fiscal Year 1959),” Rocky Mountain Arsenal Archive.
Burgdorfer, the discoverer of the Lyme bacterium, was a key member of this project team. He worked on weaponizing ticks and teamed up with fellow tick expert James Oliver at the Ft. Detrick bioweapons headquarters to develop ways to mass produce infected ticks so that they could be dropped from airplanes on enemy territory. These claims are backed up by interviews with these scientists, as well as with extensive government documentation from multiple reliable sources, all listed in BITTEN.
You go on to say: “That Burgdorfer alluded to biowarfare or biodefense programs in interviews toward the end of his life should not be construed as an admission of participation in top-secret work.” OK, but read BITTEN to evaluate the strength of the evidence. I filmed Burgdorfer detailing these bug bomb programs and it was no “prank.” He had also made these claim to others over the years. And after my interview, I verified his claims with recently released documents, including a 1962 Memorandum to the NIH Director that says that Dr. Burgdorfer, “was engaged for 3 years on classified projects (Army) from which findings could not be published because of their impact on national defense.”
I have posted many of these supporting documents on a public site, and I look forward to carrying on this conversation, and possibly even adding a new discussion topic to your class on Biosecurity.
Why Is Lyme Disease So Hard to Understand?
In the fall of 1997, after I graduated from college, I began experiencing what I called “electric shocks”—tiny stabbing sensations that flickered over my legs and arms every morning. They were so extreme that as I walked to work from my East Village basement apartment, I often had to stop on Ninth Street and rub my legs against a parking meter, or else my muscles would begin twitching and spasming. My doctor couldn’t figure out what was wrong—dry skin, he proposed—and eventually the shocks went away. A year later, they returned for a few months, only to go away again just when I couldn’t bear it anymore.
Once a tick bites you, disease transmission can take days—or minutes. Here’s what to know.
For a tick bite to make you sick, the tick must be attached to you and feeding for a certain amount of time. For some diseases, this can take a day or more. For others, it takes just minutes.
We spoke with experts in tick biology to find out why there’s so much variation, and what you need to know to protect yourself.