Breaking Down Lyme Disease


SEATTLE, Washington — Lyme disease has been around for thousands of years but was not recognized as Lyme disease in the United States until the 1970s. It wasn’t until 1980 that they made a breakthrough with the research. Dr. Burgdorfer discovered a bacterium called spirochete on deer ticks was causing the symptoms of the disease. To honor him they named the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, and with extensive background checks on patients in Lyme, Connecticut, doctors were able to use several antibiotics to treat the disease.

Even with this discovery, the number of patients with Lyme disease has increased to hundreds of thousands of people since then. The number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease ranges anywhere from 296,000 to 376,000 a year. The top countries for Lyme disease are Europe, America, and Asia.

What is Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is spread by infected tick bites. The ticks they are often found in the hardest to see areas like the armpit, groin, and scalp; however, they can attach to any exposed skin on the human body It must remain attached for 36 to 48 hours in order to transmit Lyme disease.

Young ticks, called nymphs, are more active in spring and summer when it is hot and humid and are more successful at transmitting the disease because they are less noticeable, so they can stay attached longer. Adult ticks can spread the disease too, but they are more noticeable, so they don’t stay attached long. Adult ticks are more lively during the cooler seasons. There is no evidence you can get Lyme disease any other way.

What Do the Symptoms Look Like

Symptoms of Lyme disease include rashes, flu-like symptoms, fever, headaches, neck and back pain, joint swelling or bone pain and red earlobes. Depending on when the person was bitten, doctors can determine what symptoms they might have and how long the tick was attached. One can prevent getting Lyme disease by using repellent sprays before outdoor activities.

Doctors suggest a high level of protection spray with ingredients picaridin, DEET, lemon oil or eucalyptus. When coming home from a long day hiking or being outside, take a hot shower to remove any ticks and wash clothing separate immediately. Due to people being misdiagnosed, no prevention method has been created except for personal prevention methods.

Lyme Disease and Poverty

Lyme disease has spread across the U.S. and is in over 80 countries around the world. Lyme disease mimics other disease symptoms, which leads to people being misdiagnosed and more money spent trying to get proper treatment. If treatments do not take correctly or are not taken long enough, symptoms can return in a matter of weeks.

Children are highly susceptible to ticks and Lyme disease, but many go untreated because they are misdiagnosed with behavioral problems. In poverty-stricken areas, many people cannot afford healthcare. As a result, they may not go to the doctor when symptoms appear. There are cheaper tests you can buy to see if you have Lyme disease, but they only work about 50 percent of the time. If not treated in the early stages, late stages of Lyme disease become costly to the patients. If not treated at all, the person will suffer from chronic Lyme disease, which becomes life-threatening.

Lyme disease not only affects people’s health but also the economy on a severe level. On the border of Texas and Mexico, many tick species thrive and affect the cattle being transported between the borders. One species transmits a parasite for cattle fever, sickening the cattle, which affects the farmer’s wages and meat supply.

Mexico has issues obtaining healthcare and treatments in a timely manner, and 15.9 percent of Texans are below the poverty line due to sick cattle, which has severe effects on the economy. Even with the help of the National Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program, which has introduced acaricides to use on the cattle being transported, the problem has persisted. Now, the ticks have grown defenses against it, making it harder to prevent cattle fever. Studies by the Global Lyme Alliance are slowly finding new ways to prevent and treat tick diseases.

Treating Lyme Disease

The disease can be treated easily with an oral antibiotic like doxycycline or amoxicillin except when its gone undiagnosed for too long. Untreated, it can create neurological manifestations that require intravenous therapy. A surprising increase in cases of Lyme Disease in 2014, costing an estimated $1.3 Billion that year, sparked a scientific call. Doctors, scientists, and people working for the government thought it was time for a new approach to combatting Lyme disease. Due to misdiagnosis, a new form of government guidelines was put in place for controversial diseases.

Advancements in Lyme disease treatments have been progressing at a moderate pace. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has committed more than 20 years of research to Lyme Disease. Thanks to the rise of biotechnology, scientists can use genome sequencing and precision medicine to study many different strains of Borrelia burgdorferi. Being able to study the many different microbes on ticks can accelerate treatments by discovering which drugs can kill the microbes faster.

With this taken into account, the NIAID concludes that an effective vaccine designed to protect against multiple strains of tick microbes will help reduce cases of Lyme disease. In the near future, they hope to be able to diagnose and treat various forms of Lyme Disease within days of a tick bite. This will also reduce the cost of treatment for many patients from the current, extensive treatments required. Scientists are hopeful for the future discoveries on Lyme disease to make a difference in thousands of lives and save billions of dollars on treatments.

Kayla Cammarota

Photo: Pixabay


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