Lyme Disease Existed Over 15 Million Years Ago

amberAre you aware Lyme Disease has been around for over 15 million years?  Lyme Disease may have received its’ name in the 1970’s but was around much longer than a mere 40 years.  Scientists recently uncovered a piece of amber which contained a 15 million year old tick trapped inside.  The perfectly preserved tick examined by researcher George Poinar, Jr. from the Oregon State University, found the bacteria Borrelia burgdorfer inside the tick.  This is the same present day bacteria that causes Lyme Disease.  If the bacteria was present in a tick from over 15 million years ago, does that mean ticks have been infecting humans since the beginning of our existence? Were cavemen also infected with Lyme Disease?

Well, there is evidence that suggests Lyme Disease has plagued humans for thousands of years.  In 1991, hikers unearthed a partially frozen mummified neolithic man nicknamed by the press as Otzi.  Otzi is thought to have lived over 5,300 year ago and guess what?  Scientists discovered our friend Otzi had Lyme Disease.

Like humans of the present day who live in wooded environments, Otzi too was bite by a tick that carried the Borrelia Burgdorfer bacteria.  When these bacteria enter the body, the first Lyme disease symptoms experienced by humans are fatigue, fever, and flu like symptoms.  People also might notice erythma migrans, often referred to as bull’s-eye marks because of a red ring that develops around a clear area and inside the clear area is a single red dot.  These strange looking rashes can vary in size from very small to covering the length of a person’s entire back.  If Lyme Disease is left untreated, it can lead to long term health problems.  Lyme Disease causes arthritis and neurological conditions such as Meningitis and Bell’s palsy.

Fortunately, Lyme Disease is treatable.  Antibiotics containing doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil work effectively to cure Lyme Disease in the early stages of infection.  Patients are given these antibiotics to take orally for two weeks at which time symptoms typically will cease.  For those patients experiencing more severe symptoms such as neurological and cardiac problems, there are intravenous drugs to treat the Lyme Disease.

How is it that Lyme Disease managed to thrive for millions of years?  It is because the evolution of ticks predates the existence of humans.  Scientists are not sure exactly how long ticks have roamed the earth but they all agree it was at least over 100 million years ago, whereas the evolution of man is only 200,000 years old.  Ticks were sucking blood and carries bacteria and other parasites long before our arrival.  Chances are they were infecting the dinosaurs with Lyme Disease too.

References:

“Lyme Disease Symptoms and Treatment.” WebMD. Accessed September 26, 2014.

Korte, Travis. “Otzi The Iceman’s Genome Reveals Evidence Of Lyme Disease, Lactose Intolerance And Distant Relatives.” The Huffington Post. February 28, 2012. Accessed September 26, 2014.

 

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