3 Facts You Didn't Know About the Lyme Bacterium
Get to Know the Stranger Living in Your House
Let’s say you were kind enough to let a relative or friend temporarily stay on your couch until they got a few things in their life straightened out. No problem, right? Well, at least you'd hope so.
Now, would you do the same thing for a complete stranger, permanently, or at least with no foreseeable indication that they’d ever want to leave -- but before you answer this question, they’ve already set themselves up on not just your couch, but have started eating your food, used your loofah, and have somehow managed to fill up the kitchen garbage, all without saying a single word to you.
Of course not! So then why do we somehow grant this exception to the Lyme bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi?
We’re going to go out on a limb here and say it's just a matter of poor communication. So to help bridge this gap of understanding, we’ve come up with 3 interesting facts about the Lyme bacterium that you didn’t know.
Fact 1. The Lyme Bacterium Can Be Transmitted from a Tick in Less Than 10 Minutes
When a tick lands on its host, it prepares to secure its attachment before feeding. The tick saws into the skin, inserts a harpoon to lock itself in place, and then releases a mixture from its salivary glands designed to suppress the host’s immune response and keep the blood flowing for a good feeding. All of this takes less than 10 minutes.
Now, Lyme bacteria tends to reside in the gut of a tick, where it can remain through different life stages. However, some Lyme bacteria penetrate the tick’s gut wall and spread to other areas of the tick, such as the salivary glands.
So when a tick releases the mixture from its salivary glands into the host during its less than 10 minute preparatory phase, it could also be injecting Lyme bacteria into the host before the tick takes in a single drop of blood.
Fact 2. The Lyme Bacterium’s Favorite Food is Collagen
Collagen is a structural protein made by the body, found in various locations such as joints, skin, blood vessels, bones, and more. After Lyme enters the body, it seeks out collagen-rich areas such as joints, the heart, and the brain, and begins breaking down the collagen to feed and ultimately reproduce. This is why most Lyme symptoms involve these specific areas of the body.
In a display of pure intelligence and millions of years of evolution, Lyme bacteria forge through the collagen-rich areas by hijacking the body’s own enzymes (i.e., MMPs, normally used to forge pathways for new blood vessels). Then it carefully works the immune system to release cytokines that break down the collagen, its major nutrient source in the body, and turns it into soup. Previous injuries or existing arthritis may become worse with Lyme as the bacteria takes advantage of an immune system already breaking down its preferred food source.
Fact 3. The Lyme Bacterium Dies at a Temperature of 105.8°F (41°C)
The Lyme bacterium is very sensitive to high temperatures, as it could easily result in its death. In fact, you may have heard of a cyst form of the Lyme bacterium, which is a physical change the Lyme bacterium goes through to protect itself from unfavorable living conditions, such as excessive heat. This extreme heat intolerance is also why you tend not to find cases of Lyme in the tropics.
Modern medicine takes advantage of the Lyme bacterium’s intolerance to heat with a treatment known as Hyperthermia. Basically the body is slowly heated up -- an artificial fever is created -- to 106.9°F to 107.2°F (41.6°C to 41.8°C) for roughly 2 to 3 hours. As concluded in a study, all cultured Lyme bacteria die when heated to 105.8°F (41°C) for 24 hours, but Hyperthermia kills all Lyme bacteria when heated to 106.9°F (41.6°C) after 2 hours.
A stark difference from the Lyme bacterium’s preferred reproduction temperature of 98.6°F (37°C), also known as a normal human body temperature.
Now that you’re a bit more familiar with the unwanted stranger living in your house, you can understand the mechanisms for how (quickly) you may have been infected, why specific symptoms appear with chronic Lyme disease, and one modern medical tool used for treating the condition. Every bit of information you learn about chronic Lyme disease can lessen the time the stranger stays and the destruction and injury of the stay.
Chronic Lyme disease is a complex condition, which means the Lyme bacterium, Borrellia burgdorferi, can be transmitted a number of ways -- not just via a tick -- can produce some of the most bizarre and unusual symptoms a person will ever experience, and will likely require different treatment modalities for a complete healing of the condition, though major improvements can be seen with just one.
- Buhner, S. H., & Nathan, N. (2015). Initial infection dynamics, cytokines, encysted form and biofilms. In Healing Lyme: Natural Healing of Lyme Borreliosis and the Coinfections Chlamydia and Spotted Fever rickettsioses (pp. 114-165). Silver City, NM: Raven Press.
- Cook, M. (2014, December 19). Lyme borreliosis: A review of data on transmission time after tick attachment. Retrieved January 05, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4278789/
- Kung, F., Anguita, J., & Pal, U. (2013, January). Borrelia burgdorferi and tick proteins supporting pathogen persistence in the vector. Retrieved January 05, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3564579/
- M;, M. (n.d.). Induction of cystic forms by different stress conditions in Borrelia burgdorferi. Retrieved January 05, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14961976/
- McIntosh, J. (2017, June 16). Collagen: What is it and what are its uses? (1144964569 861525504 C. Cobb, DNP, APRN, Ed.). Retrieved January 05, 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262881
- Porcella, S., & Schwan, T. (2001, March). Borrelia burgdorferi and Treponema pallidum: A comparison of functional genomics, environmental adaptations, and pathogenic mechanisms. Retrieved January 05, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC208952/
- S. (n.d.). Lyme Treatment Protocol. Retrieved January 05, 2021, from https://www.st-george-hospital.com/lyme-treatment-protocol/
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