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Name: Carol C.
Status: Other
Age: 50s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2001

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?

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 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 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.


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