On the Origins of Lyme Disease and What We Can Learn From it
It was an infamous moment in the history of disease. People living near a secretive government bioweapons lab suddenly start getting sick. The government launches an investigation and declares that they’ve found a new disease. Independent journalists learn that the government was using the nearby lab to conduct gain-of-function experiments on animal-borne illnesses, and speculate that a lab leak might be the cause of the outbreak. The corporate media and expert class immediately spring into action and declare that the lab leak hypothesis is a conspiracy theory. You may be thinking that this is a summary of the SARS‑CoV‑2 lab leak story from 2020. In fact, it describes the outbreak of Lyme disease in the 1970s.
Lyme disease is a bizarre disease. It’s difficult to detect, with current tests only able to recognize the disease 50% of the time. The spiral-shaped bacteria resembles syphilis; besides fatigue and arthritis-like symptoms, it also delivers Alzheimer-like symptoms to some. The CDC estimates that nearly half a million Americans get Lyme disease a year. While not lethal, it ruins the lives of many of the people who catch it.
Lyme disease was first identified by scientists as a distinct illness in the 1970s. But it wasn’t until 1981 that famous medical entomologist and tick expert Willy Burgdofer discovered the biological agent causing the disease. However, years later, Lyme disease activists began asking questions: Had Burgdofer discovered Lyme disease in 1981? Or had he engineered it as a weapon years earlier?
In the 1950s the American military initiated a biological weapons program to weaponize ticks. The Cold War was beginning, and the Pentagon was looking for ways to create anti-personnel agents, and ticks were considered a promising delivery mechanism.
Ticks could inject biological agents directly into human bodies. Since ticks are hardy creatures they could render large areas hazardous over a sustained period of time. Government scientists fed ticks with a smorgasbord of diseases delivered through tiny glass tubes which included Q fever, typhus, and even rabies.
Eight years later, the Pentagon began planning to deploy non-lethal insect-borne biological weapons against Cuban workers before the 1962 sugar harvest. In Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons, journalist Kris Newby interviewed a CIA officer who said that he took part in an aerial deployment of ticks over Cuba as part of Operation Mongoose. The military didn’t want to just weaponize ticks. At the same moment that the government was experimenting on ticks, fleas were infected with the same bacteria that caused the bubonic plague.
To test how fleas could be used in a possible biological attack, in 1954 the Pentagon conducted Operation Big Itch. Military planes dropped bombs loaded with 670,000 uninfected fleas, which opened 1,000 feet in the air, causing fleas to rain from the sky. Although over 669,000 of the deployed fleas went missing, the test was considered a success, as it showed that the fleas could survive the fall, and would still attack their targets once they hit the ground. In a world threatened by nuclear war officials seemed to believe that implanting deadly diseases in uncontrollable insects was a reasonable thing to do.
By the 1960s, military scientists were making great strides in their weaponized tick research. Their focus had shifted from creating lethal biological agents to developing weapons that could incapacitate victims by making them moderately ill for weeks to months. The idea was to target enemy population centers with illnesses, and then send in vaccinated soldiers to capture them without a fight.
In order to accomplish this goal it was necessary to invent new kinds of microbes which humans would not have a natural immunity against. The best way to do this was by triggering a mutation. Researchers began giving ticks disease cocktails which contained both bacteria and viruses in order to leverage the virus’ ability to manipulate bacterial genes to accelerate rates of mutations and create new bacterial traits.
Meanwhile, the army was analyzing tick migration patterns to understand how ticks would spread across enemy territory. The military had taken a particular interest in the Lone Star tick, a highly aggressive tick native to northern Mexico and the American South. The Lone Star tick was the ideal vehicle: it actively hunted for victims, rather than passively waiting on a blade of grass for victims to arrive.
To discover how far they would travel, the government released ticks in Montana and Virginia. The sites in Virginia were located on the Atlantic Flyway, where migratory birds fly up and down the coastline. In order to track the test ticks, the ticks were made radioactive by giving them a sugar solution laced with Carbon-14. Between 1966 to 1969, the government released 282,800 radioactive ticks inside the United States. The ticks released in Virginia went north. By 1970, Lone Star ticks were appearing as north as Long Island, New York.
From 1968 to 1976, the coastal regions from Long Island to Cape Cod saw a series of unusual tick-borne disease outbreaks. Year 1968 saw the first cases of human babesiosis in the Eastern US appearing on Nantucket island, Massachusetts. That same year, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever appeared in Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Cape Cod. By 1970 hundreds of cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever had been documented in Long Island. Finally, in 1972, the first 51 documented cases of Lyme Arthritis appeared in Lyme, Connecticut.
As the New England coastal region became a hotspot for rare cases of tick borne disease, the CDC remained strangely quiet. So where did these diseases in the Long Island Sound came from? One possibility was that they came from the military biowarfare experiments being conducted at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center of New York, only a few miles away from Lyme and Long Island. Researchers at the facility had raised large quantities of ticks and focused their research on babesiosis, rickettsias and other diseases. Deer from Lyme regularly swam to Plum Island, and local birds flew there to feed on insects. With Plum Island having a spotty safety record, many concluded that either a lab leak or an intentional release of the ticks was the probable origin of the mysterious sudden outbreaks. But direct evidence to support this conclusion was limited.
That changed in 2013 when indie filmmaker Tim Grey conducted an interview with Willy Burgdorfer. Grey knew what many did not: that Burgdorfer had spent most of his career as a biological weapons researcher specializing in weaponizing ticks. Originally recruited as a biological weapons contractor due to his experience working with Q fever, his German language skills had made him a valuable asset as he was able to interview the Nazi bioweapons scientists brought to the US during Operation Paperclip. It was Burgdorfer who pioneered using viruses and bacteria cocktails on ticks to try to fast-track mutations.
Rocky Mountain Laboratories, Tick Collection (1940)
Rocky Mountain Laboratories, Tick Collection (1940)
After three hours of interviewing, Grey asked Burgdofer if the pathogen he found in Lyme, Connecticut, was the same or a mutation of one the pathogens he had created in 1952. After a long minute of silence, Burgdofer admitted that it was the same. With this shocking admission Burgdofer was stating that Lyme disease wasn’t a naturally occurring germ, but rather had been created in a military bioweapons lab.
Although Borrelia, the type of bacteria that creates Lyme disease, had existed in America before the 1970s, Burgdofer’s lab notes released after his death suggest that he was concerned he might have been responsible for creating the more virulent strain now ravaging the country.
The Lyme disease which began to spread in the ’70s is not the same “Lyme disease” of the past. A 2021 DNA analysis of the Lyme disease bacterium strain revealed how genetically unusual it is, indicating that it underwent a very unusual evolution. One explanation would be that Burgdofer’s method of mixing viruses and bacteria in ticks to trigger mutations caused this violent evolution. Additionally, the Army’s program where Burgdofer-supplied irradiated Lone Star ticks that were released across the US could have created a path for the Borrelia bacteria mutating into contemporary Lyme disease.
Following the presentation of this evidence in Kris Newby’s book Bitten, Lyme disease activists began pressuring politicians to investigate the Pentagon’s program to weaponize ticks. In both 2019 and 2021 a bipartisan majority in Congress voted to launch a probe to investigate if the Pentagon weaponized ticks with Lyme disease. Although the Senate has yet to approve this measures, the bipartisan vote has turned the hypothesis the government created Lyme Disease from a fringe conspiracy theory into the leading mainstream hypothesis.
Or had it? Shortly after Congress approved an investigation into the Pentagon, the Washington Post published an Op-Ed entitled: “No, Lyme Disease is not an escaped military bio-weapon, despite what the conspiracy theorists say.” The author was Sam Telford, the then-director of the New England Regional Biosafety Laboratory, a point oddly left unmentioned in his op-ed. One year later, other scientists also running ‘biosafety’ labs used the same ‘conspiracy theory’ playbook to smear people investigating the Wuhan lab leak.
The theory that Lyme disease originated from human intervention remains the most plausible theory. Yet despite considerable evidence, and even support from Congress, the media still wants to label this hypothesis a conspiracy theory.
Journalists declare that Americans not believing official narratives means that we live in a “post-truth era.” In reality, Americans have woken up to the fact that we are living in a “post-justice era” where a certain class of people are never held accountable for their failures or their corruption. They can start wars based on lies, crash the economy, conduct insider training, and openly commit other crimes, yet never face repercussions.
The main truth that the regime is working hard to conceal is that America is just as corrupt as a third world dictatorship. And what is corruption but a criminal conspiracy among the powerful to profit while avoiding justice?
Convincing the public to recognize this reality is a challenge. The media isn’t intellectually honest, and, sadly, the average person isn’t intellectually or morally courageous. The threat of being labeled fringe or unhinged is enough to keep many from voicing their suspicions.
Still, there is reason for hope. The origins of Lyme of disease, the Jeffrey Epstein saga, and the origins of SARS‑CoV‑2… all these began as ‘conspiracy theories’, but have eventually managed to gain broad public acceptance as legitimate scandals. Each of these case studies reveals a path for overcoming the regime’s information war defenses.
A key element in turning a conspiracy theory into a legitimate scandal is persuading people from different ideological tribes to buy into it. In this age of intellectual cowardice, many people feel that they need permission to voice an opinion. They look towards authorities in their own tribes for this permission. For example, discussing the possibility of Covid originating from a lab leak was considered completely out of bounds among liberals until June 2021, when former Daily Show host Jon Stewart delivered a rant which declared that a lab leak was the most obvious explanation. Overnight, people who would never voice any support towards the lab leak suddenly began openly discussing the possibility.
The best way to make people to lower someone’s guard, and introduce them to a ‘conspiracy theory’ is through humor. People want to be in on the joke. Especially if it means they can laugh at others. Then, when people start digging, you want them to discover detailed, logical evidence that they can use to form a rational conclusion. You need to reject the frame that you are discussing a conspiracy theory and strongly insist that you are discussing a scandal.
To this end, the Lyme disease activists have done a fantastic job. It wasn’t until 2019 when Kris Newby published her book Bitten that the Lyme disease lab-leak theory began to be taken seriously by people in power. Newby’s book was the culmination of years of intense research, multiple FOIA requests, and long, detailed interviews with government officials involved in biological weapons programs. Armed with all the facts she’d gathered about the government’s efforts to weaponize ticks, how the army funded the release of thousands of irradiated ticks across America in the 1960s, how multiple rare tick borne illnesses all appeared near Plum Island, and how the discover of Lyme disease admitted that he believed the disease was one of the bioweapons he created, Newby laid out a case that couldn’t be dismissed.
Newby can take pride that her mastery of the facts persuaded both parties in Congress to accept that the lab-leak theory was not a “conspiracy theory” but a plausible account of how Lyme disease started. Although the media and military-industrial complex still claim that the military origins of Lyme disease is a ‘conspiracy theory’, their denials now lack the authority they once had.
In a post-justice world where the media and justice system no longer hold the powerful accountable, the responsibility has fallen on ordinary citizens to use our platforms to broadcast the truth. Truth has a wildfire quality to it, where once people see that they are being lied to in one area, they begin to recognize the other lies being told. We may not see the justice that we want immediately, but so long as we keep exposing the corruption, incompetence, and cover ups of our ruling class today, we can pave the way for accountability in the future.