What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme Disease an infection caused by an invasive spirochaetal bacterium known as Borrelia burgdoferi (abbreviated Bb). The organism was named after Dr Willie Burgdorfer, who identified the bacteria in 1983. These infectious organism, which are called spirochetes because of their characteristic corkscrew or spiral shape, are the cause of the disease we call Lyme Disease. The technical name for the disease is Lyme Borreliosus, however it is commonly known as Lyme disease. In the United States, more than 100 strains of Bb have been identified so far, while worldwide approximately 300 strains have been found (Singleton, 2008).

In addition to there being many different strains of Lyme, the bacterium can also exist in three different forms when viewed under a microscope. The most common form is called a spirochete, which is the corkscrew structure that is transmitted from the tick and causes an infection in humans. Once inside the body, the spirochete can change itself into two alternative structures if it is stressed or threatened (for example, antibiotics). The first alternative structure is called the “L” form. In this form, the Lyme organism becomes round in shape and its outer coating (called the cell wall) becomes thinned. The second alternative configuration is called the “cyst” form. In this form, the Lyme organism becomes thickened and it ceases its growth and reproductive processes. It goes into hibernation, or dormancy, waiting for a more favourable time and environment in which to grow (Singleton, 2008)

Find out what causes Lyme Disease

References

Singleton K. (2008). The Lyme Disease Solution. Charleston, SC: BookSurge.

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