BorreliaBWhat is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria, the spirochete Borrelia, which infects both animals and humans. Borrelia has been with us a long time – 15 to 20 million years according to spirochetes found in fossils. The oldest documented case of Lyme in humans is 5000 years old.

It is called “Lyme disease” in the United States, after 39 individuals in Lyme, CT showed symptoms of the illness in the 1975. Scientist Willy Burgdorfer discovered the Lyme spirochete in the early 1980’s, so it was named Borrelia burgdorferi, after him. In other countries around the world, “Lyme disease” is called “Borreliosis.”

Borrelia burgdorferi is currently thought to be the most prevalent spirochete in the United States; there are many other strains of Borrelia present in other countries. How many varieties of Lyme exist worldwide? The best answer may be, “we don’t know.” The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) lists 40 known strains of Borrelia burgdorferi alone, with several hundred strains in what they call the “Borrelia burgdorferi group.”