Housewives of WWII – “Lyme is something you can talk about at cocktail parties”

It is, it is.  The ALDF’s now dead David Weld (brother of William Weld) said this often, as did others.  Lyme disease is not a real disease but it is something fashionable “to talk about at cocktail parties.”

Never having been a rich person or to a cocktail party or at a loss for conversation topics ever in my life (usually other people start them), I am not quite sure what is meant by that statement.  I think it means we chronic Lymie whinies are bored housewives looking for drama, or looking to exaggerate an event for the attention it would get us.   I guess it shows you also what the ALDF/CDC/IDSA gang think of trophy wives.

Which is pretty sad.  Who would marry someone who runs their mouth all the time but no content comes out just for the F.  You’d really have to be a low life.  Blow up dolls are cheaper.  And when traveling, you can just fold them up and put them in your suitcase.  You only have to buy one airline ticket.  They don’t need any clothes or jewelry.  You don’t need to buy them an SUV and insure it…

So, however, during World War II, relapsing fever was an actual thing that caused disability even in housewifesoldiers in the desert.  It caused “chronic ill health” in about a quarter of the victims, to their knowledge.  And lots of neurologic damage.




Ronald Bodley Scott, DM, OXFD, FRCP


    THE campaigns in the Lybyan Desert yielded cases of relapsing fever of a type not previously known in Egypt.  They were due to a infection with Treponema recurrentis, whose immunological characteristics have not yet been determined, transmitted by the bite of an unnamed argasid tick of the genus ornithodoros, bearing a close resemblence to O. erraticus, the vector of the Tunisand strain of treponema (Adler, 1942).  This tick probably inhabited the burrows of desert rodents and infection was commonly acquired in caves, slit trenches and tombs.
Characteristic of this fever was the high proportion of cases in which the central nervous system was invaded.  Most descriptions of the disease include the comment that nervous system sequelae occur and that they are more common in the tick-botne than in the louse-borne fever; but theirt frequency and variety are not generally recognized.  This paper is concerned with a small series of cases seen in 1941 and 1942; its observations consequently apply to the disease of the north-west Africa coast.  It is likely, however, that this reservation is not absolute” the characteristics of Tr. recurrentus are so labile that strains from the same locality, and even from different relapses in the same case, may show immunological variations (Ashbel 1943).  This the clinician is probably justified in discounting the importance of differences of strain and in regarding the tick-borne relapsing fever as an entity, however heretical the immunologist may consider this view.


    In the animal the neurotropism of this treponema is well-established.  Ashbel (1943), investigating 17 strains of Tr. persica, found that organisms could be isolated from the brains of guinea pigs 117-398 days after apparent recovery from the infection.  In some cases this cerebral invasion proved fatal and post-mortem examination showed small perivascular hemorrhages and infiltrations with lymphocytes, monocytes and macrophages.  The neurotropism of various strains has been shown to be equally great in other animals (Heronimus 1928).
The predilection of the treponema for nervous tissue in the animals raises the question of whether it is similarly neurotropic in man.
Data are not plentiful; but as long ago as 1874 Ponfick reported petechial hemorrhages in the brains of cases dying in the Berlin epidemic.  Belezky and Umanskaja (1930) have recorded the findings in 8 fatal cases: clinical observations are scanty in their paper but only one had symptoms of disease of the nervous system.  In all instances microscopy showed a patchy perivascular infiltration of the pia with monocytes, lymphocytes and plasma cells, and in places the cerebral vessels were encircled by a similar cellular halo.  In 3 cases treponemata were found in the brain substance, diffusely distributed and in no constant relation to vessels.
More recently, Ungar has described the case of a woman dying in the puerperium with relapsing fever and cerebral symptoms.  The post-mortem findings included a cholesteatoma of the lateral recess edema of the cisternal pia-arachnoid and hemorrhages in the caudal part of the pons and the floor of the 4th ventricle.  Sections showed the Virchow-Robin spaces distended with erythrocytes, lymphocytes and monocytes; treponemata were recovered from the cerebrospinal fluid and from the tumor…





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