A brief history by Elena Cook
The world of Lyme disease medicine is split into two camps – the US government-backed “Steere camp”, which maintains the disease is hard-to-catch, easily cured, and rarely causes chronic neurological damage, and the “ILADS camp”, which maintains the opposite. The Steere camp is intricately bound up with the American biowarfare establishment, as well as with giant insurance and other corporate interests with a stake in the issue. The ILADS doctors lack such connections, but are supported instead by tens of thousands of patients rallying behind them.
Because the Steere camp has been massively funded and promoted by federal agencies, its view has dominated Lyme medicine not just in the US, but across much of the world. The result has been suffering on a grand scale. Below is a concise history of the military aspects of this cover-up.
Weapons of Mass Infection
The development of biological weapons has never been confined to dictatorships or “rogue” regimes. During the Second World War America, Britain and Canada collaborated closely on developing offensive bioweapons, and offensive research continued as an openly acknowledged activity of the US scientific establishment during the Cold War. Only in 1972 was this work banned by international treaty. Meanwhile the Maryland-based labs at Fort Detrick, for example, had produced millions of mosquitoes, ticks and other vectors for the purpose of spreading lethal germs.[i] The island of Gruinard, off the coast of Scotland, was only declared habitable again in 1990, nearly fifty years after the British first contaminated it during anthrax experiments. [ii]
Ticks, which vector Lyme disease, have been studied as biowarfare instruments for decades. Such well-known biowar agents as tularaemia and Q-fever are tick-borne. The Borrelia genus of bacteria, which encompasses the Borrelia burgdorferi species-group (to which Lyme disease is attributed), was studied by the infamous WW2 Japanese biowar Unit 731, who carried out horrific experiments on prisoners in Manchuria, including dissection of live human beings. [iii] Unit 731 also worked on a number of other tick-borne pathogens.
After the war, the butchers of Unit 731 were shielded from prosecution by the US authorities, who wanted their expertise for the Cold War. [iv] The US government also protected and recruited German Nazi bioweaponeers under the aegis of the top-secret Operation Paperclip. [v]
Borreliosis, or infection with microbes belonging to the borrelia genus, had been dreaded during the Second World War as a cause of the often-fatal disease relapsing fever. The new post-war era of penicillin meant that many bacterial infections could now be easily cured. However, borrelia were known for their ability to adopt different forms under conditions of stress (such as exposure to antibiotics). Shedding their outer wall, (which is the target of penicillin and related drugs), they could ward off attack and continue to exist in the body.
Lyme disease is not usually fatal, and it is sometimes argued that, with rapidly lethal agents like smallpox and plague available, an army would have no interest in it. However, what is important to understand here is that incapacitating or “non-lethal” bioweapons are a major part of biowarfare R&D[vi], and have been for decades. For example, during the Second World War, brucellosis, chronically disabling but not usually fatal, was a major preoccupation. Military strategists understand that disabling an enemy’s soldiers can sometimes cause more damage than killing them, as large amount of resources are then tied up in caring for the casualties. An efficient incapacitating weapon dispersed over a civilian population could destroy a country’s economy and infrastructure without firing a shot. People would either be too sick to work, or too busy looking after those who were.
The EIS and the “Discovery” of Lyme
Modern Lyme history begins in 1975 when a mother in the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut reported the outbreak of a strange, multi-system disease. The town lies directly opposite the Plum Island biowarfare research lab where, according to former Justice official John Loftus, Nazi scientists brought to the US after WW2 may have test-dropped “poison ticks”. [vii] It should be noted that Loftus’ reputation for gathering accurate, hard-hitting information is strong – strong enough to bring down in disgrace the former Chancellor of Austria and Secretary-General of the UN Kurt Waldheim, after the latter’s wartime SS record was revealed.
While it’s not yet known if Plum Island experimented on Lyme-causing borrelia, the lab’s directors openly admitted to Michael Carroll, author of a recently-published book which is endorsed by two former State Governors, that they kept “tick colonies”. The “hard tick” Amblyomma americanum, a known carrier of Borrelia burgdorferi, was one of the subjects of the Island’s experiments. [viii]This tick is not the one most commonly associated with transmitting Borrelia burgdorferi, but it is implicated in harbouring Borrelia lonestari, believed to be the cause of a “Lyme-like illness” in the American south. [ix]
Carroll’s book reveals a shocking disregard for safety, in this lab handling some of the most dangerous germs on earth. Eyewitnesses described how infected animals were kept in open-air pens. Birds swooping down into the pens could have picked up and spread infected ticks worldwide.
When Polly Murray made her now-famous call to the Connecticut health department to report the strange epidemic among children and adults in her town, her initial reception was lukewarm. However, some weeks later, she got an unexpected call from a Dr David Snydman, of the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), who was very interested. He arranged for fellow EIS officer Dr Allen Steere to get involved. By the time Mrs. Murray turned up for her appointment at Yale, the doctor she had expected to see had been relegated to the role of an onlooker. Allen Steere had taken charge – and his views were to shape the course of Lyme medicine for the next thirty years, up till today. [x]
To understand the significance of all this, we need a closer look at the Epidemic Intelligence Service, the EIS.
The EIS is an elite, quasi-military unit of Infectious Disease experts set up in the 1950’s to develop an offensive biowarfare capability. Despite the banning of offensive biowar in the 1970’s, the crack troops of the EIS continue to exist, ostensibly for non-offensive research into “emerging disease” threats, a blanket phrase covering both bioweapon attacks and natural epidemics at the same time. Graduates of the EIS training program are sent in to occupy strategic positions in the US health infrastructure, taking leadership at federal and state health agencies, in academia, industry and the media. The organisation also extends its influence abroad, training officers for public health agencies in Britain, France, the Netherlands etc. [xi] [xii]
In fact a high proportion of Steere camp Lyme experts are involved with the EIS. Given that the EIS is a small, elite force, (in 2001 the CDC revealed there were less than 2500 EIS officers in existence since the unit was first created in 1951 [xiii]), it seems incredible that so many of America’s top Infectious Disease experts would devote their careers to what they themselves claim is a “hard-to-catch, easily-cured” disease.
Within a few years of Steere’s “discovery” of Lyme disease (the unique Lyme rash, and certain associated symptoms, had been recognised in Europe nearly a century before), it was announced that its bacterial cause had been identified. The microbe was accidentally found by biowarfare scientist Willy Burgdorfer and was subsequently named for him. Burgdorfer has championed the Lyme patients’ movement and is not suspected of any wrongdoing. However it is not impossible that he was unwittingly caught up in a chain of events that were not as random as they might have seemed.
Burgdorfer was a Swiss scientist who had been recruited by the US Public Health Service in the 1950’s. He was highly experienced with both ticks and borrelia, but after being told that the government were not interesting in funding work with the latter, he switched to work with Rickettsia and other pathogens. [xiv] In 1981, Burgdorfer was sent a batch of deer ticks by a team studying Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever on the East Coast. In charge of the team was one Dr Jorge Benach. [xv] Benach subsequently spent much of his career as a Steere camp Lyme researcher. In 2004 he was chosen as recipient for a $3 million biowarfare research grant. [xvi]
Cutting open some of Benach’ ticks, Burgdorfer noticed microfilaria (microscopic worm young). This was a subject he had been studying recently, only these microfilaria were different. They were exceptionally large, large enough to be seen with the naked eye.[xvii] His curiosity naturally piqued, he opened up several more ticks. There he was surprised to find the spiral-shaped germs of borrelia.
Cultivation is necessary in order to isolate bacteria for study, so that diagnostic tests, vaccines or cures can be developed. Borrelia are very difficult to grow in culture. However, by “lucky coincidence”, another scientist had recently joined the lab where he worked, and had apparently been involved in an amazing breakthrough in this area. So naturally Burgdorfer handed the infected ticks over to him. [xviii]
That scientist was Dr. Alan Barbour, an officer, like Steere and Snydman, of the Epidemic Intelligence Service, with a background in work on anthrax, one of the most terrifying biowarfare agents known. [xix]
EIS man Barbour therefore became the first to isolate the prototype organism on which all subsequent Lyme disease blood tests would be based. [xx] This is very significant, as a huge body of evidence [xxi] indicates the unreliability of these tests, which are routinely used to rule out the disease. Additionally, all DNA detection of the Lyme agent in ticks and animals is ultimately based, directly or indirectly, on the genetic profile of the strain first isolated by Barbour.
Shortly after Barbour’s discovery, other species and strains of the Lyme-causing bacteria were isolated, especially in Europe. They were all classified based on their resemblance to Barbour’s organism, and have been grouped into a category called Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato or “Bbsl” for short. However, a borrelia was subsequently found in the southern US (referred to briefly above) which appears not to be a member of Barbour’s Bbsl group at all.[xxii]
The bacteria, named Borrelia lonestari, often evades detection on Lyme blood tests, is not found using DNA tests, and does not grow in Barbour’s culture medium which is used world-wide for lab study. [xxiii]And yet, it appears to cause an illness identical to Lyme – down to the “bullseye rash”, which, though not present in all patients, is considered unique to Lyme disease.
In 2005 Barbour, who spent much of his career studying the “hard-to-catch, easy-to-cure” Lyme disease, was placed in charge of the multi-million new biowarfare mega-complex based at University of California at Irvine (UCI). [xxiv] Barbour is joined there by his close colleague and fellow Steerite Jonas Bunikis, author of recent papers calling for a restrictive approach to Lyme diagnosis.
The Spread and the Spin
By the late 1980’s it was realised that Lyme disease was rapidly spreading out of control. Cases were reported across America, Europe and Asia. Federal health agencies launched a major propaganda effort to limit diagnosis and so artificially “contain” the epidemic. The National Institute of Health (NIH) appointed biowarfare expert Edward McSweegan as Lyme Program officer. [xxv] Under his leadership the diagnostic criteria was skewed to exclude most sufferers, especially those with chronic neurological illness. McSweegan’s successor at NIH, Dr Phil Baker, is an anthrax expert [xxvi], and has continued his policies.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is another federal body which has had a major impact on how Lyme is diagnosed and treated. Its influence extends abroad, with European public health departments drawing up policies based on CDC guidelines. It should be remembered that it is the CDC which trains the Epidemic Intelligence Service, and much of the leadership of CDC has traditionally been drawn from EIS ranks. Therefore it comes as no surprise to learn that David Dennis, the head of vector-borne diseases at CDC, with massive influence over Lyme issues, was involved with the EIS. However, we could legitimately wonder why, at lower levels of the CDC hierarchy, EIS officers - the nation’s heavyweight infectious disease experts - continue to play such a major role in investigating the supposedly “hard-to-catch, easily cured” Lyme. (For example, EIS officers Martin Schriefer and Captain Paul Mead.) [xxvii].[xxviii]
In 2001, responding to the protest of thousands of patients that standard two or three-week antibiotic courses were not sufficient, the NIH commissioned biowarfare scientist Mark Klempner to study persistence of Lyme infection. ILADS doctors had found that patients left untreated in the early phase often needed long courses of antibiotics, [xxix] sometimes for years. Klempner, however, concluded that persistent Lyme infection did not exist. In 2003 Klempner was appointed head of the new $1.6 billion biowarfare top-security facility being developed at Boston University. Shortly after, the news emerged that there had been an escape of the deadly bug tularaemia which was not properly reported to the authorities. [xxx]
In 2005 the author discovered a document on the NIH website listing Lyme as one of the potential bioterrorism agents studied in BSL-4 (top security) labs. After this was publicised, the NIH announced they had made a “mistake”, and removed the words “Lyme disease” from the page. (At the time of writing, the original is still available in cached Internet archives. [xxxi]) However, at around the same time, a CDC source leaked the identical information to the Associated Press. [xxxii] Moreover, the Science Coalition, comprising entities as prestigious as the American Medical Association, Yale University, and the American Red Cross, maintain a website which, at the time of writing, also lists Lyme as a disease studied for its biowarfare potential. [xxxiii] Could these three major organisations all have, co-incidentally, made the same “mistake”?
In 2004 the UK government denied that Lyme was a threat in Britain and told Parliament that no Lyme research had been conducted since 1999. [xxxiv] Yet the report of the official UK delegation to an international conference on the prevention of bioterrorism revealed that Lyme was being studied at Porton Down, Britain’s top biowarfare facility. [xxxv] Britain, and many other European countries, take their lead on Lyme from a body called EUCALB, rooted in Steere camp methodology. NATO has also been directly involved in moves to “harmonise” European Lyme diagnosis along Steerite lines
A Bug of Many Talents
Lyme’s ability to evade detection on routine medical tests, its myriad presentations which can baffle doctors by mimicking 100 different diseases, its amazing abilities to evade the immune system and antibiotic treatment, would make it an attractive choice to bioweaponeers looking for an incapacitating agent. Lyme’s abilities as “the great imitator” might mean that an attack could be misinterpreted as simply a rise in the incidence of different, naturally-occurring diseases such as autism, MS, lupus and chronic fatigue syndrome (M.E.). Borrelia’s inherent ability to swap outer surface proteins, which may also vary widely from strain to strain, would make the production of an effective vaccine extremely difficult. (A vaccine developed for the public by the Steere camp in collaboration with Glaxo Smithkline was pulled from the market a few years ago amid class action lawsuits [xxxvi].) Finally, the delay before the appearance of the most incapacitating symptoms would allow plenty of time for an attacker to move away from the scene, as well as preventing people in a contaminated zone from realising they had been infected and seeking treatment. Often in the early period there is no rash, only vague flu-like or other non-specific symptoms which might be dismissed by GP’s, or ignored by the patient.
The 2003 proposal for a rapid-detection method for biowarfare by Dr JJ Dunn of Brookhaven National Lab seems to add further grounds for suspicion. It is based on the use of two “sentinel” germs – plague and Lyme. [xxxvii]
In 1999 Lyme patient advocacy leader Pat Smith was amazed to find, on visiting an Army base at an old biowar testing ground in Maryland, that the US Dept. of Defence has developed a satellite-linked system that enables soldiers to read, in real-time, off a display on their helmet’s visor, information about the rate of Lyme-infected ticks wherever they may be on earth. Unit commanders could update the database using state-of-the-art portable PCR machines, which test for Lyme DNA in soldiers bitten by ticks. [xxxviii] The use of such cutting-edge technology for a supposedly “hard-to-catch, easy-to-cure” illness seems odd, to say the least!
Lyme is often complicated by the presence of co-infecting diseases in the same tick, e.g. those caused by the microbes of babesia, bartonella, mycoplasma (believed by some researchers to be the cause of Gulf War illness), ehrlichia, microfilaria and encephalitis viruses. Investigations into some of these, too, have been led by American biowar experts.
It could be argued that some of these Lyme researchers have been awarded biowar-related grants simply because they are Infectious Disease specialists, which is a natural terrain from which to recruit. After all, research budgets for biowar have ballooned massively since the anthrax attacks of 2001; there is a demand for large numbers of personnel to work on such projects.
Well, there are two things that could be said here. First, researchers who have spent much or most of their careers studying a “hard-to-catch, easily-cured” disease would not appear to be the best choice as recipients of this type of grant, unless the “easily-cured” disease had some relation to biowarfare. Second, while some infectious disease specialists began to study biowarfare organisms for the first time after 2001, this is not necessarily the case with the Steerites. Klempner, for example, was studying ways to increase the virulence of Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague, over 20 years ago [xxxix]; Barbour researched anthrax for the Army in the 1970’s. [xl]
The defeat of Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Gulf War was followed by the drawing up, by the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) of a list of microbes to be monitored in Iraq. Among them - the borrelia genus in general, and Borrelia burgdorferi in particular. [xli] UNSCOM also included organisms such as ehrlichia and babesia, which are often present in Lyme-infected ticks, and are acquired as concurrent illnesses when a person is bitten.
There are other organisms on the UN list not generally associated, in the public mind, with biowarfare, and it could be argued that the UN was simply being extra cautious by casting a wide net. However, whether Lyme bacteria were present in Iraq at that time or not, they certainly are today, and US Army manuals warn soldiers to protect themselves from the disease [xlii] If we are to accept the traditional Steerite explanation for the rise of Lyme – that it is a natural consequence of a recent population explosion of deer due to reforestation, combined suburbanisation, bringing humans into contact with forests – then the presence of Lyme in the dusty sand dunes of Iraq seems perverse.
And what of the doctors of the opposing camp, those associated with ILADS? ILADS doctors and researchers increasingly find themselves persecuted, victims of spurious charges made against them to Medical Boards, and are hounded out of their professions. At the time of writing, paediatrician Dr Charles Ray Jones, credited by thousands of parents with restoring the health of their disabled children, is under trial, accused of misconduct. A few years ago, Dr Lida Mattman, a Nobel Prize nominee who worked on an alternative culture medium for Lyme, was ordered to shut down operations by police who arrived at her lab with handcuffs. Dozens of doctors who had been treating Lyme successfully according to their clinical judgement, rather than relying on insensitive blood tests or arbitrary limits on antibiotic duration, have been forced to stop. The president of ILADS, Dr Raymond Stricker, has told the press he believes Lyme disease is a bioweapon.
Lyme disease is the subject of hot controversy, with the “Steere camp” claiming it is an easily cured ailment, while the ILADS camp views it as a severely disabling, multi-symptom neurological disease.
The number of Steere camp Lyme researchers with a background in the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) and/or biowarfare research is too numerous to be pure co-incidence. Two scientists who have played a central role in the Lyme story, Barbour and Klempner, have been placed in charge of new biowar super-labs set up in the aftermath of 9-11, where they are aided by some of their Steerite colleagues. Others, while not in charge of super-labs, are nevertheless in receipt of substantial grants for biowarfare research.
The United States and some of its NATO allies have a long and sordid history of experimentation into biological weapons of mass destruction and mass incapacitation. The Borrelia genus and ticks as biowar vectors have been studied for decades, and recent revelations about the Plum Island disease lab, across the water from old Lyme, Connecticut are worrying. The development of the so-called “non-lethal weapons” has been a major part of biowar science for decades.
Suspicion is further fuelled by the declaration by America’s National Institute of Health that a document on their website listing Lyme as a microbe studied for bioterrorism potential was a “mistake”, just at the time that a CDC source leaked the same “mistake” to the Associated Press. British delegates at an international conference on the prevention of bioterrorism revealed that intense work on Lyme and other tick-borne disease is conducted at the UK’s top biowar lab at Porton Down.
Lyme has been chosen as a “sentinel organism” in a method of rapidly detecting bioweapons, and the whole genus, or category, of borrelia was included among those to be monitored by the UN in Iraq after the first Gulf War. US soldiers in Iraq today are warned by the military to protect themselves against the disease.
It’s possible to see the modern history of Lyme as a string of events with an EIS member at every crucial node. The discovery of new Lyme-causing borrelia, genetically distinct from the Borrelia burgdorferi group first cultured by EIS officer Alan Barbour, throws up the question as to whether the Bbsl organisms he introduced to medicine was the only, (or even the most) relevant borrelia. The testing and diagnostic regimens based on the views of Barbour, Steere, etc and backed by federal health agencies such as CDC and NIH currently condemn huge numbers of Lyme patients to a medical limbo, without treatment or recognition for their disease. The cost in human suffering may be unimaginable.
[i] Williams P, and Wallace D, “Unit 731, the Japanese Army’s Secret of Secrets”, Hodder and Stoughton 1989, p284
[ii] BBC news website http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/1457035.stm
[iii] Howard Cole, Chief of Intelligence at America’s Chemical Warfare Service, reported in “Unit 731” , p105
[iv] “Unit 731”. Op cit.
[v] Carroll, Michael “Lab 257-
The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Germ Laboratory”, Harper Collins 2004
[vi] Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate https://www.jnlwd.usmc.mil
[vii] “Lab 257” op cit.
[ix] Bacon et al, “Glycerophosphodiester phosphodiesterase gene (glpQ) of Borrelia lonestari identified as a target for differentiating Borrelia species associated with hard ticks”, J Clin Microbiol 2004 May;42(5):2326-8.
[x] Murray, Polly, “The Widening Circle”, St Martin’s Press 1996
[xii] Center for Disease Control website www.cdc.gov/eis; http://www.cdc.gov/od/oc/media/pressrel/r010720.htm
[xiv] Barbour, Alan “Lyme Disease: the Cause, the Cure, the Controversy”, The John Hopkins University Press 1996, p 29.
[xv] “The Widening Circle”, op cit. p.174
[xvi] New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research, NYStar News http://www.nystar.state.ny.us/nl/archives2004/longislandA08-04.htm
[xvii]Beaver, PC and Burgdorfer, W “A microfilaria of exceptional size from the ixodid tick, Ixodes dammini, from Shelter Island, New York” J Parasitol 1984 Dec;70(6):963-6
[xviii] Barbour, Alan “Lyme Disease: the Cause, the Cure, the Controversy”, The John Hopkins University Press 1996 p30.
[xix] University of California at Irvine website http://today.uci.edu/news/media_advisory_detail.asp?key=80
[xx] Barbour, Alan op cit.
[xxi] See 17 pages of citations from peer-reviewed medical literature archived at http://www.lymeinfo.net/medical/LDSeronegativity.pdf
[xxii] Bacon et al, op cit.
[xxiii] Varela et al, “First Culture Isolation of Borrelia lonestari, Putative Agent of Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness “, J Clin Microbiol. 2004 March; 42(3): 1163–1169
[xxiv] UCI Medical Centre http://www.ucihealth.com/News/Releases/06-05BiodefenseResearch.htm
[xxv] McSweegan biography http://advance.uri.edu/quadangles/spr2004/story9.htm#profile6
[xxvi] NIH News http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/apr2006/niaid-23.htm
[xxvii] CDC www.cdc.gov/eis/conference/archives/2003ProgramAbstracts.pdf
[xxviii] NY Academy of Sciences www.nyas.org/biodef/speakers.asp
[xxix] ILADS Treatment Guidelines http://www.ilads.org/guidelines.html
[xxxi] For example, this one at: http://web.archive.org/web/20050208095246/http:/www.niaid.nih.gov/factsheets/detrick_qa.htm
[xxxii] See MSNBC article featured on http://www.ctlymedisease.org/featurearticle02.htm
[xxxvii] Sherr, V comment in the Lancet http://www.thehumansideoflyme.net/viewarticle.php?aid=60&PHPSESSID=109a322bd7e9529b2e74c151aface839
[xxxix] Pollack C, Straley SC, Klempner MS, “Probing the phagolysosomal environment of human macrophages with a Ca2+-responsive operon fusion in Yersinia pestis” Nature. 1986 Aug 28-Sep 3;322(6082):834-6.
[xl] Rees et al, “Epidemiologic and laboratory investigations of bovine anthrax in two Utah counties in 1975” Public Health Rep, 1977 Mar-Apr;92(2):176-86.
[xli] “Note by the Executive Chairman of the Special Commission established pursuant to paragraph 9 (b) (i) of Security Council resolution 687 (1991)” Document date: 17 March 1995 Ref- S/1995/208 http://www.fas.org/news/un/iraq/s/s1995-0208.htm
[xlii] First Infantry Division Soldier’s Handbook to Iraq, Unclassified Document 2003