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Researcher Who Found Cause Of Lyme Disease Dies

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Lyme disease tic and nymph (Getty Images)

Lyme disease tic and nymph (Getty Images)

HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — The Swiss-born researcher who gained international recognition for discovering the bacteria that causes Lyme disease has died in western Montana.

The Daly-Leach Chapel says in a phone call that Wilhelm “Willy” Burgdorfer died of Parkinson’s diseaseMonday in Hamilton. He was 89.

Burgdorfer was educated in Switzerland. He came to the Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Hamilton as a research fellow in 1951 and joined the staff as a medical entomologist six years later.

In 1982, while he and another researcher were studying deer ticks in hopes of uncovering the cause of a spotted fever outbreak in New York, Burgdorfer found the microorganisms called spirochetes (SPY’-ruh-keets) that would prove to be the cause of Lyme disease.

The infection had caused children living near Lyme, Connecticut, to develop rheumatoid arthritis. The spirochete was later named after Burgdorfer.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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