Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Lyme Disease Vector
Name: Carol C.
Status: Other
Age: 50s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2001


Question:
I was recently told by a neuromuscular therapist (who has many patients suffering from Lyme Disease) that the most recent information he has received states that Lyme Disease can be spread by contact with an infected person. He said that Lyme is caused by a (sounded like) spiruite (something that started with spir ).

He said that made perfect sense because this same spir... entity is the same as the cause of syphillis - which, of course, is spread by human contact. Is this correct? Is this a type of bacterium? What is the correct spelling? Where might I find more information on these spir... characters?



Replies:
I am not an expert in this area, so I hesitate to give an answer; however, I searched the terms: "Lyme disease transmission" on the search engine www.google.com and found many "hits" that seem to discuss this issue in authoritative detail.

Vince Calder


Dear Carol,

your neuromuscular therapist may be an expert in his field but he clearly has got a few wrong ideas about the pathogens that cause Lymes disease and syphilis. True, both are Spirochetes, but they are certainly not identical (as identical as, say a cow and a sheep, both ungulates). Lymes disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi.

Syphilis is caused by Treponema pallidum. Both have a spiral bacterial body, hence their name spirochetes. But whereas T. pallidum can only infect humans, and is spread by sexual activity, B. burgdorferi needs a tick as a vector to spread. There are more pathogens that have developed a life cycle in which an insect is required to complete the infection cycle, and in some instances this system has been so much refined, that without the vector the pathogen can not reinfect a human host.

So, as far as the data go that I have available, B. burgdorferi requires the tick as a vector for spread.

Lyme disease is NOT a sexually transmitted disease. And Treponema is NOT identical to Borrelia.

More info is available in the Virtual Museum of Bacteria, under www.bacteriamuseum.org where you can find files in the species cabinet on both these organisms, and many more.

Dr. Trudy Wassenaar
Curator of the Virtual Museum of Bacteria


The bacteria that causes Lyme Disease is a spirillum (spiral shaped) bacteria. I have never heard of Lyme being spread by an infected person, but there may be new information that I am not aware of. The reason syphillis can be spread sexually is that the bacteria is found in open sores on the genitals of the infected person. When another person comes in contact with the open sore, the bacteria can be passed to that person. As far as I know, there are no open lesions in Lyme Disease. It is also not spread through the air from person to person as far as I know.

vanhoeck



Click here to return to the Molecular Biology Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory