What causes Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is caused by the bite of infected tick. (Burrascano J Jr. M.D. 2008)

What are 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. The 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. (Ticktalkireland.org, 2015)

Ticks are very stealthy. They will inject and anaesthetic into the skin as well as an anticoagulant and will feed typically for several days. They are able to anchor themselves under the skin with a cement type plug making it hard for them to be brushed or washed off. They are initially very flat before feeding, so you many not ever notice them at all unless your do regular tick inspections. (Ticktalkireland.org, 2015)

In 1982, further investigation by Dr Willie Burgdorfer left to the discovery that it wasn’t the tick bite itself that caused Lyme disease, but rather the presence of the specific Bb bacteria in the tick which was then transmitted to humans when bites occurred (Singleton, 2008). Not all ticks carry the Bb bacteria, and accordingly not all tick bites transmit Bb to humans, therefore a tick bite does not always result in a manifestation of Lyme disease.

Tick Size Guide

Find out more about Chronic Lyme Disease


Burrascano Jr. M.D., D. (2008). Advanced Topics in Lyme Diease. 16th Ed.
McFadzeab, N. and Burrascano, J. (2012) The beginner’s guide to lyme disease. South Lake Tahoe, Calif: BioMed Publishing Group.

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

Ticktalkireland.org, (2015). Frequently Asked Questions About Lyme Disease. [online] Available at: http://ticktalkireland.org/faq.html [Accessed 24 Jul. 2015].

Ticktalkireland.org, (2015). Ticks [online] Available at: http://ticktalkireland.org/ticks.html [Accessed 24 Jul. 2015].