History of Lyme Disease


Lyme disease was discovered as a
result of an outbreak in the 1970s. The bacterium was globally assessed in the
early 1900s when the first manifestation associated with tick bites was reported
in Europe. Then in early 1970s, a group of children and some adults were experiencing
health issues in Lyme, Connecticut. The medical community thought they were
suffering from an uncommon arthritic issue because the symptoms included severe
fatigue, headache, paralysis, and skin rashes. The outbreak was initially considered
to be of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Later, in 1981, a scientist named Willy
Burgdofer studied the relation between the disease and deer ticks as a result
of the people living in wooded areas. He took note of the symptoms that started
during the summer time, which correlated with the increase of ticks during that
time. He discovered the bacterium shaped as a spirochete, which was carried by
ticks was causing the actual disease. The following year, the bacterium was
named after Dr. Burgdofer’s discovery, now more commonly known as Borrelia
burgdoferi. Reports of Lyme disease has increased drastically since the outbreak
of it, and today is one of the most common vector-borne infections in the
United States. Although, Lyme disease has been reported in almost all the
states in the United States, it is more commonly reported in the Northeastern
and mid-Atlantic states. Around 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to
the CDC by state health departments every year.

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The bacterium Borrelia burgoferi is a helical shaped
spirochete that is loosely coiled. It is gram negative by default and it is not
really classified as either Gram-positive or Gram-negative because when it is
gram-stained it only retains the safrin color as that is the last dye used in
the procedure. The bacterium is only 1 micrometer wide and can range from 10-25
micrometers in length. The shape and motility of this bacterium is governed by
the fact it’s interactions between the flagella and the cytoplasmic membrane on
either ends and its coils around the cylinder. This not only causes it to be
motile, but also highly invasive. The actual transmission of the bacterium is
played by the outer surface proteins (Osp).



Infection Stages of
the Lyme Disease


In order for a person to acquire the infection, the tick that
carries the bacterium must be attached to the human skin 24-48 hours in order
for the tick to transmit the infection. The infection stages can be split up
into three different stages. Usually the first stage symptoms are very common
in everybody infected with the disease. The first sign of the infection is an
erythema migran, which is a circular rash at the site of the tick bite and
usually appears after a few days of the transmission. Sometimes, the infected
humans also develop similar rashes on other parts of their bodies as well as
symptoms like fatigue and fever that mimic Flu-like cause. Stage two of the
infection stages occurs after the infection spreads throughout the body. This
is noticed by symptoms like facial palsy, meningitis, extreme joint pain and
heart palpitations. The infection proceeds to stage three only if it is left
untreated for quite a few months. The infected individuals might develop severe
arthritis pain as well as join pain and swelling.




The symptoms of Lyme disease usually start out with a bull’s
eye rash that is mostly painless. The rash is flat and does not itch, and it is
a primary sign that the infection is spreading throughout the infected individual’s
skin tissues. The problem with this is that the rash can disappear if not
noticed and treated, which may cause the symptoms to worsen. Patients may also
go through flu like symptoms like fever and headache, which makes it hard to
detect, but when those symptoms periodically return that could be a sign of
Lyme disease. Lyme disease is one of the few illnesses that can cause palsies on
both sides of the face and this is a result of the bacteria invading the facial
nerves. Muscle and joint aches are also common and may be transitory, meaning
more than one joint may be affected at a given time. Neurological problems are
usually 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 develop
chronic neurological problems. Heart failure is on the extreme side of the
symptoms and can only become a problem if the bacterium invades heart tissues
and starts interfering with the heart, which can cause chest pains, shortness
of breath, and even heart palpitations.  




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 this
is that it may sometimes give false positive results and it also may not be
positive during the earlier stages of the infection. The Western Blot test is
used after the ELISA test to confirm the diagnosis. This tends to be more
sensitive and it also detects antibodies to several proteins of the Borrelia
Burgdoferi. Sometimes, when the disease is not diagnosed early, it can become
chronic. There are also oral antibiotics available like doxycycline and
amoxicillin, which are usually prescribed for at least three weeks when a patient
has early signs of Lyme disease. Intravenous antibiotics such as penicillin is
also available, which can just be injected in the bloodstream through the skin. 


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