History of Lyme Disease Lyme disease was discovered as aresult of an outbreak in the 1970s. The bacterium was globally assessed in theearly 1900s when the first manifestation associated with tick bites was reportedin Europe. Then in early 1970s, a group of children and some adults were experiencinghealth issues in Lyme, Connecticut. The medical community thought they weresuffering from an uncommon arthritic issue because the symptoms included severefatigue, headache, paralysis, and skin rashes. The outbreak was initially consideredto be of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Later, in 1981, a scientist named WillyBurgdofer studied the relation between the disease and deer ticks as a resultof the people living in wooded areas. He took note of the symptoms that startedduring the summer time, which correlated with the increase of ticks during thattime. He discovered the bacterium shaped as a spirochete, which was carried byticks was causing the actual disease.
The following year, the bacterium wasnamed after Dr. Burgdofer’s discovery, now more commonly known as Borreliaburgdoferi. Reports of Lyme disease has increased drastically since the outbreakof it, and today is one of the most common vector-borne infections in theUnited States. Although, Lyme disease has been reported in almost all thestates in the United States, it is more commonly reported in the Northeasternand mid-Atlantic states. Around 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported tothe CDC by state health departments every year.
Morphology The bacterium Borrelia burgoferi is a helical shapedspirochete that is loosely coiled. It is gram negative by default and it is notreally classified as either Gram-positive or Gram-negative because when it isgram-stained it only retains the safrin color as that is the last dye used inthe procedure. The bacterium is only 1 micrometer wide and can range from 10-25micrometers in length. The shape and motility of this bacterium is governed bythe fact it’s interactions between the flagella and the cytoplasmic membrane oneither ends and its coils around the cylinder. This not only causes it to bemotile, but also highly invasive.
The actual transmission of the bacterium isplayed by the outer surface proteins (Osp). Infection Stages ofthe Lyme Disease In order for a person to acquire the infection, the tick thatcarries the bacterium must be attached to the human skin 24-48 hours in orderfor the tick to transmit the infection. The infection stages can be split upinto three different stages.
Usually the first stage symptoms are very commonin everybody infected with the disease. The first sign of the infection is anerythema migran, which is a circular rash at the site of the tick bite andusually appears after a few days of the transmission. Sometimes, the infectedhumans also develop similar rashes on other parts of their bodies as well assymptoms like fatigue and fever that mimic Flu-like cause. Stage two of theinfection stages occurs after the infection spreads throughout the body.
Thisis noticed by symptoms like facial palsy, meningitis, extreme joint pain andheart palpitations. The infection proceeds to stage three only if it is leftuntreated for quite a few months. The infected individuals might develop severearthritis pain as well as join pain and swelling.
Symptoms The symptoms of Lyme disease usually start out with a bull’seye rash that is mostly painless. The rash is flat and does not itch, and it isa primary sign that the infection is spreading throughout the infected individual’sskin tissues. The problem with this is that the rash can disappear if notnoticed and treated, which may cause the symptoms to worsen. Patients may alsogo through flu like symptoms like fever and headache, which makes it hard todetect, but when those symptoms periodically return that could be a sign ofLyme disease. Lyme disease is one of the few illnesses that can cause palsies onboth sides of the face and this is a result of the bacteria invading the facialnerves. Muscle and joint aches are also common and may be transitory, meaningmore than one joint may be affected at a given time. Neurological problems areusually the result of the bacteria affecting one or more of the cranial nerves,and as many as 5% of the patients who are not treated may go on to developchronic neurological problems.
Heart failure is on the extreme side of thesymptoms and can only become a problem if the bacterium invades heart tissuesand starts interfering with the heart, which can cause chest pains, shortnessof breath, and even heart palpitations. Diagnosis Lyme disease has symptoms are very common and nonspecific,and are also found in other diseases, so diagnosis can be difficult to conduct.One of the first tests used is the Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)test, which detects antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi. The drawbacks of thisis that it may sometimes give false positive results and it also may not bepositive during the earlier stages of the infection.
The Western Blot test isused after the ELISA test to confirm the diagnosis. This tends to be moresensitive and it also detects antibodies to several proteins of the BorreliaBurgdoferi. Sometimes, when the disease is not diagnosed early, it can becomechronic.
There are also oral antibiotics available like doxycycline andamoxicillin, which are usually prescribed for at least three weeks when a patienthas early signs of Lyme disease. Intravenous antibiotics such as penicillin isalso available, which can just be injected in the bloodstream through the skin.