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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid