A Lesson in Lyme: What the Hell is a Spirochete?

Before we get down to business, I would like to address a comment that I had on my previous article. Essentially, my questions are these: Can Mosquitoes carry the bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) that cause Lyme? And can it transmit said bacteria to a human host?

The answer was a bit hard to find. But after hours of research, and many more questions I finally arrived at some conclusions-and they were a bit disheartening.

Mosquitoes, as well as biting flies, fleas and mites, can carry the Lyme bacteria. It has been documented in Connecticut and in Germany that it can be transmitted to a human host via biting flies, and in Russia it has been documented that it can be transmitted via mites. The Lyme-specific bacteria has been found in Mosquitoes-they can transfer it to a new generation via infected eggs, and it can survive overwintering. It has been documented that they can transmit and infect hamsters.

The bad news is this: there are other, distinct, borrelial spirochetes with unique genetic structures (very similar to Lyme) that can be found in mosquitoes and biting flies. And unfortunately-though it has yet to be studied in depth-they can transmit the bacteria to people. These distinct borrelial organisms have yet to be given their own species name.

Now that question brought me to two other similar yet different questions: Can the Lyme bacteria be transmitted sexually (like an STD)? And can it affect a pregnancy?

The answers I found for these were just as disheartening, if not more so. Lyme spirochetes find themselves comfortable in the intestinal track of animals and humans alike. From the intestinal track it is a short trip to the urinary tract, where it has been found that spirochetes can transmit and spread. Given all of that, it isn’t a surprise that those same spirochetes can be found in the semen and vaginal secretions of humans (animals, too). Which would explain why couples could be infected with Borrelia genotypes that are identical.

As for pregnancy, it has been known for a while now that the Borrelia DNA can be found in breast milk, but is not always present-same case for animals. Furthermore, borrelial spirochetes can, in fact, be transmitted to the baby in the womb during pregnancy. Loss of the pregnancy is one of the more common outcomes of that scenario. However, this does not mean that the child will get Lyme, but they could. It is case to case.

It is important to keep in mind that none of this has been substantiated on a larger scale–ie. a study specifically engineered for human subjects across a long period of time.

And now the real reason we’re all here: what the hell are spirochetes???

The word spirochete literally means “coiled hair”-which very much describes their appearance. Spirochetes are some of the smartest bacteria around, and they have been on Earth billions of years longer than humans.

Let’s all recall some of what we learned in our High School Science classes, shall we? Scientists have found that there are now 15 groups of spirochetes that spread between the 4 families in the phylum (Spiorchaetes). There is so much about spirochetes that is still unknown. We know of around 300 different species, but there are more than likely thousands more that we don’t know about yet. Of the 15 genera (groups), we know that (as of 2015) 4 have been found to cause human disease. New spirochetal based human diseases are being found every year.

One of the big reasons why spirochetes are such a tricky bacteria is that when they are being attacked, they undergo alterations in their physical form. They taken on an encysted form (enclosed in a cyst) and can stay like that until conditions improve. The encysted forms of spirochetes have been known to stay viable for as long as ten months and some even up to 2.5 years, and can survive both freezing and thawing.

With all that said-spirochetes being as tricky as they are and with how little is really known about them-it comes as no surprise that Lyme disease would be hard to diagnose. This behavior of spirochetes perpetuates the disbelief that many doctor’s still have that Lyme disease even exists. And all of the false negative and false positive testing doesn’t help either. Lyme disease is quickly becoming one of the most misdiagnosed diseases out there, and it has a nasty habit of mimicking many other diseases. Lyme disease is most frequently misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, fibromayalgia, multiple sclerosis, early ALS and many, many more.

In the situation that you find yourself believing that you have Lyme disease, the best thing you can do is find a Lyme literate doctor that you trust. Since so little is known, it comes down to a lot of symptom based diagnosis and treatment-regardless of the initial test results.

The bulk of the information in this article I found in a book entitled “Healing Lyme: Natural Healing of Lyme Borreliosis and the Coinfections Chlamydia and Spotted Fever Rickettsioses” by Stephen Harrod Buhner. It is the second edition of his book (revised and expanded) and it came out just last year. Buhner does a great job at explaining things and citing studies and articles. He is pro natural Lyme protocol, but does not belittle the use of antibiotics. He often finds that perhaps a mix of the two are the best thing for specific situations. Again, everything is case to case and person to person when it comes to treating Lyme disease. Buhner is the author of many other books, is an Earth poet and comes from a long line of healers. His insightful beliefs and thorough research have helped many patients and practitioners.

Next week: I’ll get away from some of this sciencey, technical mumbo jumbo and talk about PICC lines, including my personal experience. It will be fun!

Here is where I found some of the other information:

Author unknown, “Misdiagnosis of Lyme”, www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/misdiagnosis-of-lyme-disease-topic-overview

Stephen Harrod Buhner, “Biography”, http://www.gaianstudies.org/Stephen.html


Hannah Barry

About Hannah Barry

I am a 26-year-old Mainer. I was bit by a tick 4+ years ago and I've been battling Lyme disease and its various coinfections ever since.