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The Lyme Files

0 3 years ago

At a time when it seems that everyone and their little sister has a conspiracy theory, not to mention during an ongoing global pandemic, a title like Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme

Disease and Biological Weapons might tempt you to pass by with a smug shrug. But that would be a mistake, and not just for readers on tick-infested islands such as ours. There is plenty of Cold War kookiness to keep pages turning – lone star ticks laced with radioactive material, strange bacteria with code names such as “the Swiss Agent” that mysteriously disappear from the research records just when they appear to be important, mild-mannered biologists who happen to have secret Swiss bank accounts.

The book, which is coming out in paperback in June from Harper Wave, is essentially a biography of Wilhelm “Willy” Burgdorfer, a U.S. government biological weapons researcher. In the 1960s he developed methods of “weaponizing” ticks to carry various diseases and aided colleagues with experiments involving the release of thousands of lone star and other types of ticks into previously uninfested areas in order to study how fast they spread. He later discovered the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, which was named Borrelia burgdorferi in his honour, and late in life implied that he believed the Lyme epidemic was probably caused by a military experiment gone wrong.

It’s all meticulously documented by author Kris Newby, an award-winning science writer at Stanford University and documentary filmmaker. We caught up with her by telephone from California for the following edited conversation:


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