A Tribute to Dr. Willy Burgdorfer, discoverer of Lyme spirochete

Some men are born great. Some achieve greatness. And some have greatness thrust upon them. Dr. Willy Burgdorfer at inception was a very great man and by his diligent labors achieved further greatness.

Dr. Willy Burgdorfer, discoverer of microbe causing Lyme disease.

Dr. Willy Burgdorfer, discoverer of microbe causing Lyme disease.

By Alan MacDonald, M.D.

Guest Blog

A memorial service was recently held in Hamilton, Montana, to honor Dr. Willy Burgdorfer. I had the great pleasure of knowing Willy and offer these words as tribute to his memory. He will be greatly missed and will be forever positively impacting patient’s lives.

“He was a humble man. When his name was repeated by millions of people impacted by his discovery and he was revered as their personal hero, Willy opted to continue to live simply and avoid the fanfare.

Dr. Burgdorfer’s amazing discovery set the stage for modern and appropriate medical curative therapies for a host of illnesses. Willy, working alone in the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana, had perceived in the guts of the lowly Ixodid hard tick, the etiologic agent of Lyme neuroborreliosis.

This discovery mirrored those of Dr. Louis Pasteur, who like Willy made a discovery which permanently impacted worldwide public health for the better. Willy and Dr. Pasteur discovered microbial causes for a multitude of human afflictions.

Prior to 1982, treatments for Lyme disease involved primarily corticosteroid therapies, a treatment developed by Dr. Allen C. Steere, M.D., of Yale University Medical School. With Dr. Burgdorfer’s findings, Dr. Steere’s treatment methods were expunged from the annals of medicine and new, effective and evidence-based treatment plans emerged. Patients suffering with Lyme disease would now receive treatments that targeted spirochetes, specifically Borrelia spirochetes.

Simply put, before Dr. Burgdorfer’s discovery, patients with Lyme disease continued to suffer from sometimes debilitating symptoms because the disease was thought to be caused by a virus and not a bacteria. And so, treatment protocols were found ineffective.

Ticks collected from Shelter Island, New York were sent to Dr. Burgdorfer, who after examination hypothesized that the spirochetes residing in the mid-gut of these ticks were the non-viral cause of Lyme disease in humans. His findings were rigorously validated by other world-renowned scientists.

The international microbiology community voted to name the newly discovered pathogen in honor of Willy Burgdorfer, Ph.D. as Borrelia burgdorferi.

Other names under consideration included Borrelia lymeii, Borrelia benachii, Borrelia shelter islandii and Borrelia steerii.

The rest is history.

Thirty-four years after this amazing moment of discovery, the world is still learning the full extent of the implications of spirochete on infection-induced human illnesses.

By the guiding light of his discovery, and one man working alone, a medical puzzle was solved.”

3 Replies to "A Tribute to Dr. Willy Burgdorfer, discoverer of Lyme spirochete"

  • JoAnn
    02/17/2022 (2:14 am)

    I have a question. With all the bio weapon’s files / lab notes on record and “in Willy’s garage” , how can government deny that ticks, mosquito s and fleas were used in bio lab to create bio weapon s? The facts are there for anyone to look or clearly “missing”. The bio weapon s operation and location have been verified. The CDC needs to up the testing for diagnosis and treatment, they have known about Lyme and confections that can be also transferred in blood transfusion since we 1976. How many have died? Thought to leave you with, if you need blood today in hospital , has it been tested for tick,flea born illness and co-infection’s? If not, and the blood you get is from someone infected with tick disease, could you get seriously I’ll or die?

  • Ashton
    12/03/2021 (4:01 am)

    I don’t understand how the man who created the devastation of Lyme disease by messing with a ticks nature and adding black death and other horrible things into these ticks to create a devastating biological weapon is now considered somebody worth honoring. That man knew what he was doing when he worked on that biological weapon and the result was him getting Parkinson’s because of that weapon. Some might say that he got what he deserved but I don’t think he got enough of what he deserved because he never came out and told the truth. That man, he messed with nature, destroyed my life and the lives of millions. And all he did to right his wrong was leave a damn post-it note on a box very well hidden in his garage saying “I kept waiting for someone to do something and then I realized that I’m someone.”I just love how everyone thinks they can rewrite history because it’s kittens and rainbows instead of the devastation they created.

  • Alison Rich
    12/23/2014 (8:22 pm)

    Thank you, Dr. Cameron for this eloquent tribute to Dr. Burgdorfer. It just glows with your tremendous respect and appreciation for him and his enormous contributions to medicine. You are in his league. Your work to relieve the suffering of folks who have Lyme and the coinfections and your dedication to teaching other health professionals have and will continue to benefit countless patients. I am lucky to be one of them.

Join the Lyme Conversation
(Note: comments are moderated. You will see your comment after it has been reviewed.)

Some html is OK