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Boxes in dead scientist’s garage bring back a Lyme disease mystery

A note found atop old research papers from a deceased scientist eerily reflects his commitment to studying Lyme disease: “I wondered why somebody didn’t do something. Then I realized that I am somebody.” The papers, unearthed from boxes in medical entomologist Willy Burgdorfer’s garage, may indicate a bacterial strain linked to Lyme disease could still be infecting Americans today, experts working with STAT say. In the 1980s, Burgdoerfer found that a rare strain of tick-borne bacteria he called “Swiss Agent” makes Lyme disease patients’ symptoms worse and harder to cure. Though the bacterium, also known as Rickettsia helvetica, reacts to antibiotics, the experts believe it’s still worth observing, citing advantages of new technology and the need to determine why some antibiotics fail.

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