News / Science & Technology

    Lyme Disease Bacteria Found in Ancient Amber

    FILE - Photo of a deer tick under a microscope in the entomology lab at the University of Rhode Island in South Kingstown, Rhode Island.
    FILE - Photo of a deer tick under a microscope in the entomology lab at the University of Rhode Island in South Kingstown, Rhode Island.
    Jessica Berman
    Lyme disease - a painful, debilitating disease spread by ticks - was identified only about 40 years ago. But researchers say the bacteria that causes it dates back to the age of the dinosaurs... and those ancient roots may have made it difficult to treat.

    The bacterium that causes Lyme disease was present at least 15 million years ago, some 12 million years earlier than the appearance of modern humans.  

    Researchers at Oregon State University discovered a diseased tick in ancient fossilized amber from the Dominican Republic. The tick was dissected and examined with a powerful microscope by George Poinar, an expert in the detection of ancient microbes.  

    When he drilled into the amber and opened up the tick, Poinar said he saw the same spirochete-like bacteria, called Borrelis, which causes Lyme disease today.  

    “You can see spirochetes. They are still there. They are not moving, but they are frozen in different positions, kind of curving this way and that way. It almost looks like a flash photograph of these creatures swimming around. They are in all different positions in the tick on top of each other squirming around. So, you know the tick was heavily infected,” said Poinar.

    The discovery of the ancient tick and Lyme bacteria was reported in the journal Historical Biology.

    Bacteria are an ancient group of microbes dating back about 3.6 billion years, almost as old as Earth itself. They are rarely preserved in the fossil record, except in amber, which is hardened tree sap.

    Poinar, a professor emeritus with OSU's Department of Integrative Biology, said Lyme bacteria evolved over millions of years, likely becoming resistant to efforts to treat them in humans.

    While Lyme disease is easily vanquished with antibiotics soon after an infection, Poinar notes that its symptoms often are mistaken for other conditions, and as time passes before it's recognized, it becomes chronic and increasingly difficult to treat.

    “It’s much harder after the spirochetes get into the system and then lodge in various parts of the body. Then it’s very difficult [to treat]. And there are various experimental treatments that are being done out there.”

    Lyme disease affects the joints, heart and central nervous system. People can become infected anywhere in the world through the bite of an infected tick carried by mice or deer.    

    One experimental and expensive treatment is immunoglobulin or IVIG, a blood product administered intravenously. IVIG is made up of pooled antibodies extracted from the plasma over one thousand blood donors. The treatment is usually reserved for people with autoimmune disease and blood disorders.

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora