Lyme Disease and Biowarfare:
Another Accidental Release of Information

By Elena Cook

http://www.elenacook.org

Once again, there has been an accidental release of information from the US biological warfare establishment, confirming that the agent of Lyme disease is a bioweapon.

In patent no. WO/2008/147879 filed with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), UMDNJ Biomedical Informatics expert Ryan Golhar PhD describes "a processing technique, associated method, product description, and related software... for achieving rapid identification of DNA".(1) The author explains how his invention may be used to detect a very wide range of biological warfare pathogens:

"The present invention provides methods and devices for the identification of bioagents via the presence of their nucleic acids. In the context of the present invention, a 'bioagent' is any organism, living or dead, or a nucleic acid derived from such an organism. Examples of bioagents include but are not limited to cells (including but not limited to human clinical samples, bacterial cells and other pathogens) viruses, toxin genes and bioregulating compounds). Samples may be alive or dead or in a vegetative state (for example, vegetative bacteria or spores) and may be encapsulated or bioengineered."

Golhar then goes on to list the many biowarfare pathogens, which may be detected using his technique. The list is subdivided into bacterial, viral, toxin, and fungal weapons. The list of bacterial agents is as follows:

"Bacterial biological warfare bioagents capable of being detected by the present methods include, but are not limited to, Bacillus anthracis (anthrax), Yersinia pestis (pneumonic plague), Franciscella tularensis (tularemia), Brucella suis, Brucella abortus, Brucella melitensis (undulant fever), Burkholderia mallei (glanders), Burkholderia pseudomalleii (melioidosis), Salmonella typhi (typhoid fever), Rickettsia typhii (epidemic typhus), Rickettsia prowasekii (endemic typhus) and Coxiella burnetii (Q fever), Rhodobacter capsulatus, Chlamydia pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, Shigella dysenteriae, Shigella flexneri, Bacillus cereus, Clostridium botulinum, Coxiella burnetti, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Legionella pneumophila, Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease), and Vibrio cholerae."

Emphasis mine.

The official position of the public health agencies in the US and other NATO countries is that Lyme disease is rare, difficult to acquire, easily cured with a short course of antibiotics, and almost never causes chronic neurological disablement.

Tens of thousands of patients, their lives blighted by lifelong suffering, beg to disagree. They have organised themselves into campaigns, mostly in the US, but some abroad.

Allied with them are doctors and researchers such as the ILADS (2) (the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society), who contend that Lyme is easy to acquire; that the diagnostic criteria recommended by the IDSA and other establishment bodies fails to detect the majority of cases; that the disease causes multi-system, chronic disablement; and that the bacteria can assume a spore-like state making Lyme extremely refractory to treatment. Complicated and often years-long treatment may be required.

These Lyme disease specialists believe the true number of people with the disease could be in the millions, most languishing under misdiagnoses, or falsely accused of imagining or fabricating the illness that has disabled them.

Indeed an entire school of medical thought, exemplified by psychiatrists like Simon Wessely, Director of the King's Centre for Military Health Research, at Kings College, London, or Javier Escobar, Director of the UMDNJ's "Medically Unexplained Physical Symptoms (MUPS) Research Center", awash with millions of dollars of government funding, has grown up with the aim of labelling sufferers of chronic Lyme, (as well as other controversial diagnoses such as ME/CFS, Gulf War Syndrome, electromagnetic sensitivity and various conditions that could implicate the military or industry in harming health on a grand scale), as mental patients with a "somatoform" illness (i.e. physical symptoms such as pain, paralysis etc are not real, but "all in the mind" of the patient..)

A hard-to-catch, easily cured disease that neither kills nor disables would hardly seem much of a choice as a bioweapon. Why then, do we hear, again and again, that the agent of Lyme is being studied in maximum-containment biowarfare labs?

When I exposed, a few years ago, a document I found on the US National Institute of Health's website which listed Lyme as one of the pathogens studied in Fort Detrick, (the premier biowarfare lab in the US), the NIH quickly announced it was a "printing error" and removed the words Lyme disease from the page.

However, further leaks have resulted in similar information being accidentally released again and again. For example, Lyme was listed as one of the biowar agents to be studied in the new high-containment lab in San Antonio, Texas, in a report that was picked up by the Associated Press (3). After being publicised over the internet by Lyme disease patient campaigners, the link to the article was summarily removed by MSNBC; however, various archived copies survive.

A document on the website of Colorado State University revealed that Lyme was being studied in a top-security BSL-3 lab there. (4) Biosafety Level 3 is used for some of the most dangerous pathogens known, which additionally pose a major biowarfare hazard because of transmission by the airborne route. It is only one step down from BSL-4, the highest level of containment, reserved for those agents for which there is no known vaccine or treatment.

Lyme disease in nature is usually acquired by tick-bite and is not considered transmissible by the airborne route. But weaponisation usually involves creating fine-milled, aerosolisable particles - and techniques for lyophilisation, or freeze-drying of borrelia in fine particles - were developed decades ago.

In 2004, the UK delegation to an international conference on preventing biological weapons proliferation boasted of the work on rapid detection of vector-borne agents, including Lyme disease, being carried out at Porton Down, Britain's top biowar research establishment (5), whilst the British government simultaneously lied to Parliament, a spokesman informing the delegates that Lyme was a rare disease, and that therefore no research was currently being done on it. And a recent handbook on civil defence, written by top military medical scientists, refers to Lyme as one of nine agents likely to be used by bioterrorists.(6)

These are just a few examples of the many pieces of information that have emerged in recent years which, coupled with the fantastically disproportionate number of Lyme scientists who just "happen" to be core members of the biowarfare research establishment (for example, Mark Klempner and Alan Barbour, both of whom head biowar mega-labs built in the aftermath of 9-11), demonstrate that Lyme disease is an issue of extreme sensitivity to the military.

Once in possession of all the details, it requires a level of mental acrobatics beyond the capabilities of most people, to believe that all the information that has trickled out linking Lyme with biological warfare is simply a long series of misunderstandings, coincidences, or "printing errors".

Rather, it lends credence to the notion that the tens of thousands of patients who say their disease has not been cured, that their infection persists, and has disabled them, are not all lying or "somatising".

It supports the idea that the many doctors and researchers who believe Lyme disease is a serious epidemic of a brain-disabling disorder, are correct.

It supports the claims of those researchers who have published evidence that Lyme borrelia, like other spirochetes, can transform into a spore-like, antibiotic and immune-system resistant form, which persists despite repeated treatment.

Many of the doctors and scientists publishing these views have been threatened and harassed, vilified in the media, and hauled before professional regulatory boards on trumped-up charges. Many have been driven out of their careers. A few of them, like the many patients who were left without treatment, hope, or even acknowledgment of their disease, have committed suicide.

With the number of leaks of information that have emerged in the last few years, demonstrating that Lyme is a biowarfare issue, can we really trust the assurances of the "biodefense" industry that all their work is defensive in nature, and poses no threat to public health?

Can we trust a military that cannot even stop leaks of information, to prevent leaks of the pathogens held in its labs - the most deadly organisms in the world?

At the time of writing, the IDSA is due to announce the results of its review of the 2006 guidelines, drawn up by a committee composed of leading proponents of the "Lyme is a rare, trivial illness" view. The review was ordered by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal as a result of massive pressure from Lyme specialist clinicians and the patient community. The reviewing panel has been vetted to exclude any members with financial conflicts of interest with the insurance industry, biotech companies, etc..

While a move to exclude Lyme policy-makers with glaring conflicts of interest, such as self-confessed insurance industry consultant Eugene Shapiro, is welcome, it will not solve the problem. This is because no one has been screened for conflicts of interests with the US biowarfare establishment, nor asked the following question:

If you are told that in the interests of "national security", you must deliberately ignore valid scientific evidence proving that the 2006 IDSA Lyme Disease guidelines were wrong, will you comply, knowing that this decision could harm the health of potentially millions of people?

The Nuremberg trial established the principle in international law that actions harming millions of innocent civilians cannot be excused on the grounds that the perpetrator was obliged to "obey orders" of his government or military.

"National security" is a concept open to interpretation. Was it necessary to drop the bomb on Hiroshima to assure "national security"? Some say yes, some say no. If yes, was it then necessary to drop a second one on Nagasaki? How about a third one? How about a series of bombs that would wipe Japan off the map? Followed by the total annihilation of every man, woman and child in the Soviet bloc? That would have guaranteed national security for the US and its allies through all those anxious, Cold War years, would it not?

Where do we draw the line?

Matters of ethics and human rights cannot be left to military scientists, operating in secret behind closed doors. Medical researchers and doctors have an obligation to "do no harm". Otherwise they may one day find themselves stumbling to explain their actions - actions that resulted in harm to millions of people - before an international tribunal.

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