Looking through history with knowledgable eyes, historian M.M. Drymon underscores how tick-borne illness has been with us since the beginning of time, and that many prominent historical figures showed signs of it in her latest book, The Persistent Spiral – The Ancient History of Lyme Disease and Tick-borne Infections.
First, she gives details of Ozti, the ancient man discovered in 1991 who represents the earliest documented case of Lyme Disease. Evidently, Ozti was carrying mushrooms with antibiotic qualities. He walked the forested area now located between Italy and Austria – one of the highest rates of modern LD in Europe. They even know he died in the Spring due to the intact pollen cells in his stomach.
Interestingly, from many standpoints, he had 57 tattoos – many in places that coincide with acupuncture points used to treat Lyme and pain relief – some 2,000 years before their documented use in China. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/26/otzi-iceman-new-tattoo_n_6546884.html
And while all these intimate details of a fellow sufferer are intriguing, the recent discovery of what Drymon calls the pot smoking, dispersed living, individualistic Bronze Age Cowboys, enlightens for sure. The discovery of the Yamnaya helps explain old Chinese books describing people of great height, deep-set blue or green eyes, long noses, full beards,and red or blonde hair. These nomadic horse breeding and cattle and sheep herding people contributed to many ancestries and very well may relate to how modern patients handle Lyme Disease (LD). For more on the Yamnaya: https://dna-explained.com/2015/06/15/yamnaya-light-skinned-brown-eyed-ancestors/
Drymon and many others believe genetics to be one reason some become so ill with tick-borne illnesses.
The Yamnaya were grassland inhabiters who eventually migrated into Northern Europe and may be the reason most of us can tolerate lactose, which was rare previously. They also might be a reason we don’t handle tick illness well. Since they lived outside tick infested areas, they most probably had immune systems inexperienced with Tick borne illness (TBI’s) and when exposed suffered with autoimmune illness.
Drymon states the Chinese had more experience treating LD due to historically inhabiting temperate forests which harbor ticks. Traditional Chinese medicine indicates this fact by having treatments for spirochetal diseases and specific herbs for Bell’s palsy, joint pain, inflammation, heart problems, fever and skin diseases, and convulsions – all of which are TBI symptoms.
Fast forward to the Crusades and the fact both King Richard I and Philippe Augustus II became ill and nearly succumbed to Trench Mouth which is caused by Bacillus fasiformis & Borrelia vincenti (a strain of borrelia, and also a spirochete). Richard apparently became ill again later with Autumnal Fever which has a relapsing nature and is proposed to be tick-borne.
Then there’s Catherine of Aragon, lover of the hunt, who after staying at a hunting lodge, survived The Sweat and was periodically ill from that point on. A physician of the time described The Sweat as a pestilence with copious sweating, stinking, redness of face and body, continual thirst, with a great headache. Symptoms followed a pattern – sudden flu-like symptoms, apprehension, headaches, shivering, with muscle aches, and fatigue. Then came gut pain, vomiting, a hot and sweaty stage followed by headaches and delirium. There were also chest pains and difficulty breathing with great fatigue. (Sound familiar?) If patients didn’t die, they were repeatedly afflicted. It seemed to be a summer illness found in rural families. It also made many chronically affected for life.
There is no record of The Sweat until the landing of Henry Tudor’s soldiers in Wales after camping in forest edge environments. After that there were periodic outbreaks and two hundred and fifty years later an identical illness appeared in the exact same region. Another physician noted that black marks were sometimes on the skin.
Drymon lists the symptoms of numerous tick borne infections and how they look precisely like The Sweat. Symptoms of Borrelia miyamotoi cause high relapsing fevers, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, heart problems, shortness of breath, and a whole slew of neurological symptoms. Babesia is known to cause drenching sweats, anxiety, fatigue, headache, muscle, chest, and hip pain, and the ever lovely shortness of breath.
Poor Catherine struggled through seven pregnancies and her confessor reported that one knee pained her. If the babies weren’t still-born, they all died young except one daughter who became Queen Mary I. After Catherine was put to death by Henry, his next wife, Anne Boleyn battled The Sweat as well, and after marrying Henry also had a series of miscarriages with the only surviving heir being a daughter who became Queen Elizabeth I. Catherine and Anne had a lot in common, including the same husband, and while Drymon didn’t go over the probability of sexual transmission, there is evidence: https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2017/02/24/pcos-lyme-my-story/ and https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/02/06/lyme-in-the-southern-hemisphere-sexual-transmission/
Regarding pregnancy and TBI’s, fertility problems, miscarriages, birth defects and still births, are all possibilities. https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2017/10/15/pregnancy-in-lyme-dr-ann-corson/ Autopsy’s have revealed borrelia in the placenta, spleen, fetal myocardium, kidneys, liver, arachnoid space of fetal mid brain, and bone marrow. https://durayresearch.wordpress.com/about-2/seven-provocative-p2/
After Anne was put to death by Henry, and all likenesses of her were ordered to be destroyed, one of the few surviving pictures show a protruding lymph node below her jaw – another common TBI symptom.
Drymon goes through the various theories of what caused The Sweat, and logically refutes them all except for tick-borne illness. One telling quote by John Josselyn in the early seventeenth century states,
“there be infinite numbers of tikes hanging upon the bushes in summer time that will cleave to a man’s garments and creep into his breeches eating themselves in a short time into the very flesh of a man. I have seen the stockins of those that have gone through the woods covered with them.”
Evidently ticks were a problem then too.
Dr. John Caius who treated patients with The Sweat recommended regular burnings of fields and forest understory, as well as insect repellents and herbal treatments such as enula root and wormwood, herbs that are known even today to have action against borrelia and Babesia.
Drymon also discusses burnings in her other book, Disguised as the Devil,
https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2016/10/08/did-lyme-create-witches/, another fascinating read about TBI’s and the witchcraft hysteria. She draws a connection between the fact that burnings were often abandoned in times of war due to upheaval and the absence of men to do the job. This in turn allowed ticks to propagate which in turn probably meant more people got infected – particularly women of that era who wore long dresses that essentially became tick drags.
Unfortunately, this effective method of reducing the tick population is frowned upon today due to the fear of pollution. Drymon states the ramifications of burning should quantified to determine its seriousness and if accommodations could be made.
While the entire book is fascinating, and frankly a lot of fun to read, one of the most important take-aways for me is the ever present issue of reducing ticks safely, effectively, and economically.
Burning is such a simple yet brilliant method that it begs to be used.
Being a Lyme patient and advocate, I’ve read about burning before. In fact, when I asked an older Wisconsin Representative who has lived here his whole life why this practice was abandoned, he repeated precisely what Drymon said about folks being concerned about pollution. He also said burnings worked and he wished they were still being done.
When I asked well known and respected entomologists in Integrated Pest Management, they assured me that burnings weren’t successful and gave me a 1998 study conducted in Connecticut using a single controlled burn on two different days with varying burn intensities. The results state that in both burns ticks were reduced substantially (74% and 97%). What the authors felt made it unsuccessful was an abundance of ticks in the fall – meaning, they felt it was temporary.
I detect much more excitement from those in the field when you mention releasing GMO mice, lacing pellets with pesticides for rodents to eat, and high powered acaricides. All things that cost a lot of money and have significant blow-back to the environment and humans. https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2016/06/21/first-frankenbugs-now-frankinmice/ and https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2017/07/10/wolbachia-the-next-frankenstein/
I was thankful for Drymon’s usage of a 2014 burn study performed in Georgia and Florida over a two year time period that indicates regular prescribed burning is an effective tool for reducing ticks and probably reduces disease as well.
I think we need to seriously revisit burning.
Drymon’s book reminds us that tick borne illness is as old as time and if we are going to get well it would behoove us to learn from the past.