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Lyme Disease: Causes and Treatment

History of Lyme disease

Lyme disease was first detected in the Lyme district in Connecticut, United States. The disease occurred in form of rheumatoid arthritis. It puzzled researchers and medical practitioners because it was a new disease with an unknown cause. Researchers began searching for the cause in 1977and their first guess was the deer tick. Children had reported being bitten by ticks before the emergence of disease symptoms. The cause of the disease was discovered in 1981 by researchers at Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana.

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Cause of the disease

Lyme disease is caused by three species of bacteria that belong to the genus Borrelia. The three species include Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia afzelli, and Borrelia garinii (MedlinePlus, 2012).

Organism and mode of transmission

Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks belonging to the genus Ixodes. The mode of transmission involves bites by infected ticks (CDC, 2012). They inject bacteria into the body of a host.

Epidemiology of Lyme disease

The disease was first discovered in 1977 in Connecticut, USA. Research studies have revealed that Lyme disease is endemic in many areas of the Northern Hemisphere. Since the discovery of the disease’s etiology in the 1980s, cases of the disease have since increased in Europe and the United States. For example, it is one of the rapidly growing infectious diseases in the US. The disease mainly affects young people between 10-19 years. Its prevalence is higher in Asia than in other continents.

The disease process in the human body

Ticks of the genus Ixodes transmit spirochetes of Lyme disease to humans through bites. The bacteria spirochetes are then transmitted through the skin together with the ticks’ saliva (CDC, 2012). After transmission, the bacteria undergo an incubation period of between one and two weeks. Infection may cause erythema chronicum migrans, a type of rash that spreads rapidly on the skin. This happens in case the infection has not yet spread to other body regions. Infectious bacteria are injected into the host body by an infected tick through the skin (MedlinePlus, 2012). The saliva of the tick contains substances that induce immunity at the site of infection thus offering the bacteria protection against the immune system of the host (CDC, 2012). The spirochetes increase in number and spread to other parts of the body. Symptoms are caused by a reaction of the host immune system to substances secreted by the spirochetes. The host’s body is unable to produce neutrophils on the region of infection thus allowing spirochetes to proliferate throughout the body. The spirochetes are carried through the bloodstream to other body organs where they cause infections (MedlinePlus, 2012).


Treatment is aimed at either reducing the population of bacteria in the body or eliminating them. The disease is effectively treated using antibiotics (MedlinePlus, 2012). The choice of antibiotics depends on the development stage of the disease and the health status of the patient. Common antibiotics include Doxycycline, erythromycin, and ceftriaxone. Doxycycline is used for adults while erythromycin is used for pregnant women. Amoxicillin is used for children. Therapy remedies such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy have been suggested as methods of treatment although scientific evidence does not exist to prove their effectiveness and reliability. A vaccine is currently available for Lyme disease though it does not provide full immunity to all age groups. The recombinant vaccine offers immunity against Lyme disease (MedlinePlus, 2012). The vaccine (LYMErix) offers full immunity to children and only partial immunity to adults. After its development, the vaccine was not widely used because it was very expensive and many people could not afford it.


CDC. (2012). Lyme Disease. Web.

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MedlinePlus. (2012). Lyme Disease. Web.

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