Understanding Lyme Disease

Understanding Lyme Disease

Borrelia burgdorferi lyme spirochete

This is the first in a series describing the characteristics, habits and amazing capabilities of the spirochetes which cause the symptoms of what is known today as Lyme Disease. This material is from Stephen Harrod Buhner’s book, Healing Lyme, second edition, Raven Press, Silver City, NM, 2015. What I present here are some highlights. Much more information can be found in Stephen’s book. He is a remarkable  researcher, writer, seeker and communicator about life on Earth. It was my great good fortune to attend a weekend retreat with him some years back near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Amazing Capabilities of a Spirochete

“Borrelial organisms, when they enter a human body, find a very unique ecosystem in that particular person. Thus the disease is always slightly different every time it occurs. This means that a pharmaceutical or herb that works for one person may not work or work as well for another. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment that works for all people in all times and places.” ¹

What makes them so hard to treat? 

They are extremely adept at adapting to a new host- be it a tick, a mammal or a human host.  They can use over 300 different animal species as hosts. “Their capacity to subtly shift their genomic structure in response to their analysis of the interior landscape in each different host is part of what makes them so hard to treat during infections. Understanding what they do during infection and how they alter themselves in response to the host environment is crucial for creating successful treatment interventions in a large minority of those who are infected.

   Borrelia Burgdorferi (Bb) are so unusual that they were initially classified with protozoa, not bacteria. They …possess the largest number of genetic units of replication (DNA replicons) of any bacteria known, making them by far the most complex in this respect.”² (Most bacteria have only a single circular molecule of DNA, and typically only a single origin of replication per circular chromosome).

What gives Lyme organisms their stealth power?

“Borrelia are unique among bacteria in their ability to express a wide variety of lipoproteins on their surface, which play an essential role in pathogenesis…Vast diversity in the expressed surface proteome of Borrelia in different niches and multifunctionality of proteins are major strategies of Borrelia to avoid the destructive effect of the immune system.”³ A proteome is the entire complement of proteins that can be expressed by a cell, tissue or organism. In other words, they have a unique and vigorous ability to change their outer surface to evade being detected and destroyed by the host immune system or by antibiotic agents.

A simpler way of saying this: they change their surface proteins frequently. This makes it more difficult for immune cells to identify them and mount a defense. Immune cells search for invaders and recognize them by their surface proteins.


¹ Healing Lyme, p 190.

² Healing Lyme, p 115

³ Pulvoza L. and Bhide MR. Outer surface proteins of Borrelia: peerless immune evasion tools. Curr Protein Pept Sci. 2014;15(1):75-88.