Lyme disease is a common, yet often misdiagnosed disease. Researchers only learned of the disease for the first time forty years ago. Luckily, researchers are now able to shed more light on the disease thanks to fossil records. A recently discovered tick fossilized in amber has allowed researchers to study the bacteria that are present in the well-preserved amber. Researchers were able to extract the bacteria that causes Lyme disease from the fossilized tick. According to an analysis, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease has been around for fifteen million years, which is far longer than humans have existed on this planet.
This finding was made by researchers at Oregon State University. This particular group of researchers has been dedicating themselves to uncovering more about the evolution of disease by means of fossil analysis. In a related study, researchers from another university discovered bacteria that causes spotted fever within fossils that date back to one hundred million years.
With the summer months fast approaching, these recent studies make researchers wonder if people who spend a lot of time outdoors are more at risk for contracting Lyme disease than experts previously thought. Ticks that carry bacteria are particularly opportunistic when it comes to contact with living things. Disease carrying insects are experts at efficiently maintaining microbe populations in their tissues. Not only can mammals contract Lyme disease, but birds and reptiles seem to be at risk as well.
In the United States, Europe and Asia ticks are a more alarming disease spreading insects than mosquitoes. This is likely due to the advanced healthcare in western societies. In Africa, for example, mosquitoes are still the biggest disease spreading threat, because vaccines for many mosquito-borne illnesses are not as widely available. So be careful this summer by keeping an eye out for ticks.
Which other insect do you think is a major cause of disease behind the tick and mosquito?