Lyme: An Inside View

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is currently the most common illness transmitted by insects in the United States. The disease is caused by bacteria and carried by ticks which feed on mice, deer and sometimes – people. Well, right now, with the Northeastern United States in the middle of tick season, we’ll have a look at how (and why) the disease is spread – from the point of view of a lyme disease bacterium. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Richard Ostfeld is an Associate Scientist studying lyme disease at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

“The behavior of the bacterium in the tick is actually quite interesting.

The bacterium lives in the gut tissue of the tick and it doesn’t do very much while it’s in there. It appears to have no effect on the tick. Then the tick, when it finds a host, sinks its mouth parts into the host and once the blood starts flowing into the tick’s gut tissues, the lyme disease bacteria start migrating into the salivary glands of the tick. Once they get to the salivary glands, then they migrate against the flow of blood into the host and then they begin to invade the host’s tissue.”

You may ask, “why is the bacterium so anxious to get out of its comfortable home inside the tick?”

“If you are a bacterium sitting in the gut tissues of a tick, that tick is going to be a dead end for you eventually, because it is going to die, without passing you onto that tick’s offspring. The only way for you to have any success as an individual bacterium is to find your way into another tick. You do that by migrating into the body of a host, whether its a mouse or a deer or a person. And then once you find your way in to the host, you can reproduce a little bit and then your progeny may get picked up by the next tick that comes along, several months or a year later.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Lyme: An Inside View

The life and ambitions of a lyme disease bacterium: an eyewitness view.
Air Date:06/29/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is currently the most common illness transmitted by insects in the United States. The disease is caused by bacteria and carried by ticks which feed on mice, deer and sometimes - people. Well, right now, with the Northeastern United States in the middle of tick season, we'll have a look at how (and why) the disease is spread - from the point of view of a lyme disease bacterium. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Richard Ostfeld is an Associate Scientist studying lyme disease at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

"The behavior of the bacterium in the tick is actually quite interesting.

The bacterium lives in the gut tissue of the tick and it doesn't do very much while it's in there. It appears to have no effect on the tick. Then the tick, when it finds a host, sinks its mouth parts into the host and once the blood starts flowing into the tick's gut tissues, the lyme disease bacteria start migrating into the salivary glands of the tick. Once they get to the salivary glands, then they migrate against the flow of blood into the host and then they begin to invade the host's tissue."

You may ask, "why is the bacterium so anxious to get out of its comfortable home inside the tick?"

"If you are a bacterium sitting in the gut tissues of a tick, that tick is going to be a dead end for you eventually, because it is going to die, without passing you onto that tick's offspring. The only way for you to have any success as an individual bacterium is to find your way into another tick. You do that by migrating into the body of a host, whether its a mouse or a deer or a person. And then once you find your way in to the host, you can reproduce a little bit and then your progeny may get picked up by the next tick that comes along, several months or a year later."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.