Ancient Bacteria Borrelia Burgdorferi Continues to Multiply

It is commonly thought that Lyme disease originated in Lyme, Connecticut as it was first recognized there in the early 1970’s. But actually, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) was found in a 5,300-year-old mummified person in the Italian Alps. While the age of the bacteria does not help us in fighting the debilitating side effects of Lyme and Chronic Lyme, it does clue us into the fact that it is not going anywhere anytime soon.


Geographically speaking, Lyme disease has spread rapidly from the northeastern coast of the United States where it was first recognized and is still more abundant. The cause of the rapid growth of Lyme Disease is due to the spread of ticks which carry and transmit Lyme Disease. Stat news sites that Ixodes scapularis (black legged tick or deer tick) and Ixodes pacficus(Western black-legged tick) live in 44% more counties across the United States than they did in 1996. They are present in 43 out of the 50 states. The cause of this rapid spread of ticks is considered to a consequence of warming trends across the globe.


With more ticks covering more geography, it is no surprise that the number of Lyme disease cases has also risen rapidly. While Lyme disease incidence is still very dense in the Northeast, including Massachusetts; the CDC reports Lyme disease as the “fastest growing vector-borne infectious disease in the United States.” There are 25 times more Lyme cases per year in the United States than in 1982. It is estimated that up to 50% of ticks in Lyme endemic areas are infected with Borrelia burgdorferi which has 5 subspecies and 100 strains in the U.S. making it difficult to combat with antibiotics.


Whether you’re in Southborough or Westford, chances most of Central Massachusetts knows someone who has been affected by Lyme disease. Lyme disease continues to be elusive due to a few key characteristics:

  • Lyme is hard to diagnose: symptoms are similar to many other illnesses and 50% of Lyme patients never even knew they were bitten by a tick, fewer than 50% observe the characteristic bulls-eye rash and the most common Lyme diagnostic test misses 35% of culture proven Lyme disease.
  • Late diagnosis can mean long-term health problems as the bacteria has had time to enter the central nervous system making it harder to cure.
  • There are no tests to prove accurately that the bacteria has been eradicated from a person’s body after treatment.

Preventing Lyme disease by avoiding ticks and tick bites is currently the best method for fighting Lyme. We are committed to providing you the best most up-to-date information on the threat of tick-borne diseases in Central Mass. Stay tuned for the latest on ticks in the area. Be sure to follow the 6 C’s of tick control to make certain your yard is not inadvertently attracting ticks.