Q. Is Lyme disease new, or was it always around?
A. It is newly identified, but perhaps not that new.
Borrelia burgdorferi, the tick-borne spirochete that causes the famous bull’s-eye rash and other symptoms of Lyme disease, was identified in 1981, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
In 1975, a cluster of illnesses around Lyme, Conn., set off a search for the cause. The culprit, a spiral bacterium, was eventually named after Willy Burgdorfer, the scientist who linked the deer tick and the bacterium it carries to human victims. His research was published in 1982 in the journal Science.
Recent research on microbes in ancient ticks found preserved in amber in the Dominican Republic has even given rise to the theory that the spirochete, or something like it, has been around at least 15 million years, long predating humans.