A New Jersey lawmaker is calling for an investigation into whether the spread of Lyme disease came from a Pentagon experiment to weaponise ticks.
Republican congressman Chris Smith from New Jersey proposed an amendment instructing the defence department inspector general to conduct a review of whether the US ‘experimented with ticks and other insects regarding use as a biological weapon between the years of 1950 and 1975’.
The purpose of the review would be to establish the scope of the experiment and discover ‘whether any ticks or insects used in such experiment were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design’.
It has now been approved by a voice vote in the House of Representatives and has been added to a defence spending bill, however it still has to be reconciled with a Senate version.
As reported by The Guardian, Smith said the amendment was inspired by ‘a number of books and articles suggesting that significant research had been done at US government facilities including Fort Detrick, Maryland, Plum Island and New York, to turn ticks and other insects into bioweapons’.
Stanford University science writer and former Lyme sufferer Kris Newby published a book in May which raised questions about the origin of the disease, which affects 400,000 Americans a year.
The book, titled ‘Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons,’ refers to Willy Burgdorfer, who discovered the disease, saying the Lyme epidemic was a military experiment that has gone wrong.
Swiss-born Burgdorfer, who died in 2014, worked as a bioweapons researcher for the US military and claims he was given the job of breeding fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and other blood-sucking insects, and infecting them with pathogens that cause human diseases.
The book claims there were programmes to drop ‘weaponised’ ticks and other bugs from the air, and that uninfected bugs were released in residential areas in the US to trace how they spread. It goes on to suggests that such a the scheme could’ve gone wrong and led to the eruption of Lyme disease in the US in the 1960s.
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Borrelia which is spread by ticks. The most common sign of infection is an expanding area of redness on the skin that appears at the site of the tick bite about a week later.
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Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining the LADbible Group team in 2017.