The Tick and The Iceman
Though the uproar over Lyme disease is a 20th century phenomenon, the origins of the illness go back many centuries. The Tyrolean Iceman, a 5,300-year-old Copper Age individual, whose remains were remarkably preserved, was discovered in 1991 on the Tisenjoch Pass in the Italian Alps.11 An analysis of his genome found genetic sequences that contained approximately 60% of the B. burgdorferi genome, making him the earliest confirmed case of Lyme disease. The Iceman was found buried in a snow bank, having met a violent death. An arrowhead was lodged within the soft tissue of his left shoulder, causing substantial damage to the left subclavian artery. Bull’s eye!
You Might Also Like
Explore This IssueAugust 2013
Also By This Author
Dr. Helfgott is physician editor of The Rheumatologist and associate professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology, immunology, and allergy at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
- Daley B. Drawing the lines in the Lyme disease battle. Boston Globe. Published June 1, 2013. Available at www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/06/01/lyme-disease-rise-and-controversy-over-how-sick-makes-patients/OT4rCTy9qRYh25GsTocBhL/story.html. Accessed July 12, 2013.
- Steere AC, Malawista SE, Snydman DR, et al. Lyme arthritis. An epidemic of oligoarticular arthritis in children and adults in three Connecticut communities. Arthritis Rheum. 1977;20:7-17.
- Afzelius A. Erythema chronicum migrans. Acta Derm Venereol. 1921;2:120-125.
- Strandberg I. Regarding an unusual form of migratory erytbema caused by tick bites. Acta Dermatovenereol. 1920;1:422-427.
- Burgdorfer W. Discovery of the Lyme disease spirochete and its relation to tick vectors. Yale J Biol Med. 1984;57:515-520.
- Drouin EE, Seward RJ, Strle K, et al. A novel human autoantigen, endothelial cell growth factor, is a target of T and B Cell responses in patients with Lyme disease. Arthritis Rheum. 2013;65:186-196.
- Feder HM, Johnson BJB, O’Connell S, et al. A critical appraisal of “chronic Lyme disease.” N Engl J Med. 2007;357:1422-1430.
- International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. International Lyme and associated disease treatment guidelines. Available at www.ilads.org/lyme_disease/treatment_guidelines_summary.html. Accessed July 12, 2013.
- Connecticut Office of the Attorney General. Attorney General’s investigation reveals flawed Lyme disease guideline process, IDSA agrees to reassess guidelines, install independent arbiter [Press Release]. Published May 1, 2008. Available at www.ct.gov/ag/cwp/view.asp?a=2795&q=414284. Accessed July 12, 2013.
- Lantos, PM, Charini WA, Medoff G, et al. Final report of the Lyme disease review panel of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis. 2010;51:1-5.
- Keller A, Graefen A, Ball M, et al. New insights into the Tyrolean Iceman’s origin and phenotype as inferred by whole-genome sequencing. Nat Commun. 2012;3:698.