Lyme Disease Older Than Human Race, Says Study

According to new research, Lyme disease could be older than the human race. The news was recently announced by scientists from Oregon State University, who studied a piece of amber that is estimated to be between 15 and 20 million years old. Inside the amber lies the fossilized remains of Borrelia – a spirochete-like bacteria that causes Lyme disease (Lyme borreliosis). The study was published in the journal Historical Biology, entitled Spirochete-like cells in a Dominican amber Ambylomma tick (Arachnida: Ixodidae).

Lyme disease is a tick-born infection, caused by three species of bacteria of the Borrelia genus. The Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, is transferred to humans when infected ticks bite and pierce the skin.

Adult ticks, nymph and larva
Image showing the size differences between male and female adult ticks, nymph and larva.

The ticks can attach to any part of the body, but are usually identified in obscure, difficult-to-see regions, such as the armpits, groin and scalp. For Lyme disease to be successfully transferred from tick to human, the tick needs to clamp down to the skin for a period of between 36 and 48 hours. Most cases of Lyme disease are actually transferred by immature variants of ticks, called nymphs, which are just two millimeters in length.

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