What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease, or ‘Borreliosis’, is a bacterial infection passed to humans through a tick bite. Some horseflies and mosquitoes can also carry the Lyme bacteria. It is currently the fastest growing vector-borne disease in the world. Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete – a corkscrew-shaped bacteria called Borrelia. 

Infection starts with a tick bite and symptoms usually follow a few days or weeks after a bite. The first signs are an erythema migrans (EM), or “bulls eye” rash that generally radiates outwards from the source of the bite. Presence of a rash is a strong indicator of infection with Lyme disease although it might not be present in up to 70-80% of patients. Chronic flu like symptoms and fatigue are usually experienced soon after an infection.

Occasionally, the patient may carry Lyme disease but have no outwardly obvious symptoms. Ill health may crop up years later following an illness or period of stress. This leads to disseminated (or late) Lyme disease, where symptoms are similar to Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Parkinson’s disease. Lyme disease can lead to joint pain, weakness, muscle aches, pelvic pain, visual problems, tremors, headaches and heart problems, and can even result in paralysis and loss of sight. For a full list of symptoms click here.

Treatment is by a course of antibiotics and if caught and treated within a few weeks it is normally successful. However infections lasting more than a few weeks become increasingly difficult to treat needing long courses of antibiotics and in some cases intravenous antibiotics may have to be used. Symptoms become more varied and debilitating the longer an infection is left untreated. Chronic Lyme disease occurs in patients who remain untreated for a long time.

Testing techniques for Lyme disease have limitations and can prove to be falsely positive or negative. Therefore it is important to take into account the clinical history of a tick bite or exposure to ticks. See our Diagnosis page for more information.

A video on Lyme Disease has been released by the BBC and is available here.

All About Ticks

Ticks are born as small six legged larvae, less than 1mm in size. The picture below gives a relative size guide to a coin.

They feed on small rodents such as mice or birds. The larva will begin to molt and develop two more legs and mature into nymphs. These nymphs begin to search for larger animals, where they will mature into adults, feed and mate. They are able to detect carbon dioxide from passing animals and lay in wait in tall grasses, bushes and overhanging branches. Unfortunately, humans, pets, farm animals as well as wildlife are prey to the waiting tick.

Research has shown (authored by Prof. Gray of University of Dublin) that ticks collected in the areas of County Kerry, Galway, Connemara and Wicklow do carry the borrelia bacteria. It is important to be aware and protect yourself when in areas ticks may live. See our Preventing Tick Bites section for some simple precautions to help keep you safe and what to do if you are bitten.

The first two pictures were reproduced with permission from Dr. Keith Ryan who conducts the Dartmoor Tick Watch.

Check out Tick Talk Irelands pictures of ticks here

Did You Know About Spirochete?

The spirochete is as long, as a fine human hair is thick. Borrelia burgdorferi is a highly mobile bacteria, it can swim extremely efficiently through both blood and tissue because of internal propulsion. It is propelled by an internal arrangement of flagella, bundled together, that runs the length of the bacteria from tip to tip.

Many researchers have observed that the Lyme spirochete attaches to the human cells’ tip first. It then wiggles and squirms until it enters the cell. What Dr. Klempner showed was that when the spirochete attached to the human host cell, it caused that cell to release digestive enzymes that would dissolve the cell, and allow the spirochete to go wherever it pleases.

Learn more here.

Did you know that the spirochete can move faster than any human cell in the body?

In order to clear the body of infecting spirochetes, phagocytic cells must be able to get hold of them. In real-time phase-contrast videomicroscopy we were able to measure the speed of Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), the Lyme spirochete, moving back and forth across a platelet to which it was tethered. Its mean crossing speed was 1,636 µm/min (N = 28), maximum, 2800 µm/min (N = 3). This is the fastest speed recorded for a spirochete, and upward of two orders of magnitude above the speed of a human neutrophil, the fastest cell in the body. This alacrity and its interpretation, in an organism with bidirectional motor capacity, may well contribute to difficulties in spirochete clearance by the host.

Learn more here.

Did you know that Borrelia doesn’t need iron to survive?

“All bacterial pathogens described to date have developed specialised systems to acquire iron from their hosts,”said microbiologist Frank Gherardini. “Current dogma states that to be successful in humans, bacteria must overcome strict iron limitations that the human body imparts on them. Although iron is abundant in humans, the amount of free iron is well below the levels required to support the growth of most bacteria. To our surprise, we found that B. burgdorferi doesn’t even require iron. In fact, iron is extremely toxic to it.”

Learn more here.

Wow, Borrelia has 3 times more plasmids than any other bacteria & is more complex than syphilis!

Borrelia has over 1500 gene sequences so this is a very, very complex bacteria.  There are at least 132 functioning genes in Borrelia and this is in contrast to Treponema pallidum which is the spirochaete that causes Syphilis.  This bacteria has only 22 functioning genes so Borrelia is a much more complex organism from a genetic point of view compared to the organism that causes Syphilis.

Now, in addition, to all of these functioning genes, the structure of Borrelia is quite interesting because it has 21 plasmids and plasmids are these extra chromasomal strands of DNA that are kind of the early response mechanism for bacteria.

Granules or Blebs

Lyme spirochetes have also been seen shuddering violently or breaking into pieces, producing small particles called granules or blebs. Radolf and Bourell (1994) believe that the granules are “pinched-off” bits of cell wall which have been shown to contain DNA material (Brorson and Brorson 1997).  Filgueira and others (2000) argue that granules are the remnants of previous outer surface proteins which have been shed in an attempt to confuse and evade the immune system, as described above (cf. Coyle and others 1995). Others have observed the formation of blebs in response to the presence of a strong immune response or powerful antibiotics, suggesting that granule formation is another way that Bb survives the action of bactericidal agents (Sadziene and others 1994, Dever and others 1993).

Learn more here.


When a bacteria like a spirochete loses its cell wall, it becomes incapable of holding its spiral shape. It becomes a sphere surrounded by a thin semi-permeable membrane. This round sphere is like the evil counter pare to the classical spiral form. Why evil? Well, when the bacterium sheds its cell wall, it also sheds several proteins that are markers to the human immune system. In other words, the immune system has trouble finding and recognizing this new form of the bacteria. It’s almost like a criminal using disguises to change identities after each crime. Only this disguise is also bullet proof because, without a cell wall, antibiotics like Rocephin are useless. 

What is also intriguing is the fact that these cell wall deficient forms (also known as L-forms) can be seen from time to time as reverting back to the classical form. This means the Lyme spirochete appears to be capable of turning off the genes that create cell walls when it is convenient to do so, and the CWD form can then produce the classical spiral form when it needs to.

Learn more here.

Cyst Forms

The cyst form of B. burgdorferi develops when a single Lyme spirochete curls into a ball and forms a cocoon around itself, which is impermeable to most antibiotics.

Cyst formation in Bb occurs in response to common antibiotics such as ceftriaxone and penicillin (Murgia and others 2002, Kersten and others 1995). Researchers have also induced cyst formation by exposing the Lyme disease spirochete to other stressors, such as nutrient deprivation (Brorson and Brorson 1998b; Brorson and Brorson 1997) or high temperature, extreme pH variations, and the presence of hydrogen peroxide (Murgia and Cinco 2004). Gruntar and others (2002) found that B. garinii cysts proved infective when introduced into mice and could even survive freeze-thawing. Another study suggested that Lyme spirochetes prefer the cystic form when exposed to cerebro-spinal fluid, a possible reason why spinal taps often produce a low yield in diagnostic testing for Lyme disease (Brorson and Brorson 1998a).

Learn more here.


Emerging research indicates that biofilm may be a significant factor in Lyme disease and subsequently will impact requirements for treatment. Biofilm is a polysaccharide matrix that traps the bacteria making it harder for antibiotics to reach and destroy them.

Biofilm protocols have five main goals:

1. Eat through the goo-like matrix using enzymes and thinning agents 
2. Break the bonds between the goo using Ca-EDTA 
3. Kill the now-exposed bugs using antimicrobials 
4. Sweep the whole mess out using fibers and binders 
5. Rebuild the gut lining with happy, healthy critters 

www.lymebook.com/biofilm – an interesting book about the role of biofilm and source of biofilm protocols.

Click here for a must see video showing cysts, spirochetes & granular forms in one massive bio-film mass!