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February 1989

Lyme Borreliosis: Discovery of the Causative Agent

Author Affiliations

Pacific Presbyterian Medical Center 2100 Webster, Suite 112 San Francisco, CA 94115

Arch Neurol. 1989;46(2):125. doi:10.1001/archneur.1989.00520380025007

To the Editor.  —I would like to comment on the article by Finkel1 in the January 1988 issue of the Archives. The overview is a valuable addition to the rapidly growing literature on this subject. Unfortunately, it omits the discovery of the causative agent and the seminal article in which it was described.In September 1981, Burgdorfer recognized a spirochete in the mid-gut tissues of the deer tick, Ixodes dammini, from Shelter Island, NY. The finding was serendipitous since he was searching for Rickettsia rickettsii, the agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever.2,3 Sporadic cases of that illness had occurred in that region. Subsequently, serum samples of patients with Lyme disease were found to contain antibodies to that spirochete, the organism was isolated from the blood of two patients, and it was demonstrated in characteristic skin lesions.4-6 The discovery in the European tick vector, Ixodes ricinus, of spirochetes indistinguishable

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