Lyme disease was first recognized around 1975, when a mysterious outbreak of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis occurred around Lyme, Connecticut. In 1982, the causative agent of Lyme disease was discovered by Willy Burgdorfer. It turned out to be a spirochete (spiral-shaped bacterium) from the genus Borrelia, subsequently named Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb).
As Lyme disease expert Jo Anne Whitaker, M.D., notes: “Lyme disease is called the ‘New Great Imitator’ because, like syphilis [the original ‘Great Imitator’], it attacks multiple organ systems and mimics many diseases. Both diseases are caused by spirochetes.” Originally believed to be spread only through bites by the tiny deer tick (Ixodes dammini), it is now known to be potentially spread by many tick species, as well as bot-flies, mosquitoes and fleas.