Lyme disease

Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease transmitted to man through the bite of a tick infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.

Where does the Lyme disease’s name come from?

Lyme disease gets its name from a town in the state of Connecticut in America where between 1975 and 1977 there was an “epidemic” of arthritis in children. The American bacteriologist Willy Burgdorfer isolated the germ responsible for the disease in 1982 and his name is therefore given to the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.

The Borrelia bacterium

The name Borrelia burgdorferi designates both:

  • followed by “ss” (“sensu stricto”, in the strict sense of the term), a specific bacterium discovered in the United States
  • followed by “s.l.” (“sensu lato” in the wide sense), a bacterial group including many species.

4 reasons for not being alarmed

  • Not every bite is infectious (in Belgium only about 10% of ticks are infected).
  • An infected tick does not necessarily transmit the bacteria.
  • An infected person does not necessarily develop the disease.
  • Lyme disease can be treated effectively with antibiotics if it is diagnosed in time.

Sciensano ensures epidemiological surveillance of Lyme disease through a monitoring network of laboratories and general practitionersand a National Reference Centre  for Borrelia burgdorferi. 

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