Lyme Disease Photo Gallery

Ticks, Spirochetes, And Hosts Which Cause Lyme Disease

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Ticks

Ticks - Class Arachnida
Class Arachnida Soft ticks and hard ticks - morphological differences. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Lyme disease was first recognized in 1975 after researchers investigated why unusually large numbers of children were being diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in Lyme, Connecticut, and two neighboring towns. The researchers found that tiny deer ticks infected with a spiral-shaped bacterium or spirochete (Borrelia burgdorferi) were responsible for the outbreak of arthritis in Lyme.

The first symptom of Lyme disease is usually a red rash known as erythema migrans, often accompanied by flu-like symptoms. There can also be other consequences of Lyme disease including arthritis, neurological symptoms, heart problems, and more.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Public Health Image Library (PHIL)

Drawing of morphologic differences between soft ticks, Argasidae, and hard ticks, Ixodidae. The soft ticks are oval or pear-shaped and are rounded anteriorly, with mouth parts that are more easily seen from the ventral view. Some soft ticks are known to be a vector for the spirochetes responsible for causing Relapsing Fever. The hard ticks are involved with causing Lyme disease.

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Black-legged ticks

black-legged ticks
Ixodes scapularis Black-legged ticks - Ixodes scapularis. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Jim Gathany

Black-legged ticks, Ixodes scapularis, are known to transmit Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) to humans and animals during feeding when they insert their mouth parts into the skin of a host and slowly take in the nutrient-rich host blood.

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Black-legged ticks

I.scapularis
Ixodes scapularis Black-legged ticks - Ixodes scapularis. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Black-legged ticks, Ixodes scapularis, are found on a wide range of hosts including mammals, birds, and reptiles. Black-legged ticks, I. scapularis, are known to transmit Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, to humans and animals during feeding when they insert their mouth parts into the skin of a host, and slowly take in the nutrient-rich host blood.

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Black-legged ticks

I. pacificus I. scapularis
I. pacificus Black-legged ticks - I. pacificus. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Jim Gathany

Black-legged ticks, I. pacificus (shown) and I. scapularis are known vectors for the zoonotic spirochetal bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the pathogen responsible for causing Lyme disease. The ticks, inoculated with the bacterium when they bite infected mice, squirrels, and other small animals, subsequently pass the pathogens to their human victims when they obtain a blood meal. B. burgdorferi bacteria infect several body parts, producing different symptoms at different times.

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Ixodes tick

Ixodes
Nymphal stage Ixodes - hard ticks. Photo from World Health Organization (WHO)

Ixodes are classified as hard ticks, due to the presence of a dorsal plate or scutum. There are over 200 member species of the genus Ixodes. Many of them can transmit Lyme disease to humans.

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North American ticks

hard and soft ticks
Argasidae (soft) and Ixodidae (hard) Soft ticks - Hard Ticks. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Soft ticks, Argasidae, are oval or pear-shaped, with mouth parts that are more easily seen from the ventral view. Ixodes, the hard ticks, possess a dorsal plate or scutum, and many of them can transmit Lyme disease to humans.

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Two ticks

Amblyomma
Members of hard tick genus Amblyomma Two ticks from hard tick genus Amblyomma. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Two ticks from hard tick genus Amblyomma which possess elongated mouth parts. Distinguishing features of the North American Ixodidae family of hard ticks include their mouth parts, which are visible from the dorsal view. They are situated anteriorly on the tick's body and protrude forward from beneath the scutum.

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Ixodidae

Ixodidae showing mouth parts
Hard ticks - mouth parts Member of the Ixodidae family of hard ticks. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

This is a member of the Ixodidae family of hard ticks, a North American tick with anteriorly projecting mouth parts. Ixodes are hard ticks due to presence of a dorsal plate or scutum. There are over 200 member species of the genus Ixodes and many can transmit Lyme disease to humans.

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Ixodes ricinus

Ixodes ricinus
Male tick copulating with a female tick Ixodes ricinus. Photo from World Health Organization

Ixodes ricinus male tick is copulating with a female tick. I. ricinus is also called the castor bean tick because of its resemblance. I. ricinus is a vector for the B. Burgdorferi spirochete, the cause of Lyme disease, and is commonly found on farm animals and deer who are the natural host.

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Hard ticks

male and female hard ticks
Male and female Two hard ticks - male and female. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Image of two hard ticks, male is on left, female is on right. The Ixodidae hard ticks of North America are divided into seven genera: Ixodes, Amblyomma, Haemaphysalis, Dermacentor, Anocentor, Boophilus, Rhipicephalus.

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Ixodes hard tick

Ixodes hard tick laying eggs
Laying eggs Ixodes hard tick - laying eggs. CDC

After laying her eggs, this female Ixodes hard tick will die. Soft tick females will lay many batches of eggs. The North American Ixodes are hard ticks due to presence of a dorsal plate or scutum. There are over 200 member species of the genus Ixodes and many can transmit Lyme disease to humans.

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Anal groove on the tick's abdomen

anal groove
Used to classify ticks Anal groove - a characteristic used to classify ticks. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

In the photo, the position of the anal groove on the tick's abdomen places it posterior and lateral to the anal orifice. The location of the anal groove is a characteristic used to taxonomically classify ticks. On members of the Dermacentor and Rhipicephalus genera of Ixodidae hard ticks, the groove is located posterolateral to the anal orifice.

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Anal groove

anal groove positon on tick
Identifies members of the Ixodes genus of Ixodidae Anal groove of members of the Ixodes genus of Ixodidae hard ticks. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The position of the anal groove on this tick's abdomen places it anterior and lateral to the anal orifice. The shape and location of the anal groove are characteristics that are used to taxonomically classify ticks. The anal groove of members of the Ixodes genus of Ixodidae hard ticks is located anterolateral to and surrounding the anal orifice.

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Typical tick mouth parts

close up tick mouth parts
Close-up Close-up of typical tick mouth parts consisting of a centrally located hypostome, and two lateral segmented palps. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Close-up of typical tick mouth parts consisting of a centrally located hypostome, and two lateral segmented palps. A tick's mouth parts include not only the hypostome used to penetrate the skin, and two laterally situated segmented palps, but a pair of chelicerae on the distal end of the hypostome used for penetrating skin as well.

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Basis capituli

Basis capituli of hard tick
Hard tick Basis capituli of hard tick. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The basis capituli of this hard tick possess lateral borders that protrude bilaterally. The hard ticks can be divided into two groups: either the basis capituli display parallel lateral borders, or the basis capituli protrude bilaterally. Mouth part morphologic characteristics are often used in making an indentification of these arthropods.

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Spirochete

Spirochete B. burgdorferi
Borrelia burgdorferi Darkfield microscopy - spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Using darkfield microscopy technique, this photomicrograph, magnified 400x, reveals the presence of spirochete or corkscrew-shaped bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the pathogen responsible for causing Lyme disease. Borrelia burgdorferi are helical shaped bacteria. They are transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected deer tick and caused more than 23,000 cases of Lyme disease in the United States during 2002.

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Borrelia burgdorferi

Photomicrograph of Borrelia burgdorferi
The bacterium that cause Lyme disease Borrelia burgdorferi. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Photomicrograph of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that cause Lyme disease. This is a spiral-shaped bacterium that is frequently carried by deer ticks of the genus Ixodes. When the deer tick bites a human being, the bacteria are transmitted to the human bloodstream.

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Borrelia burgdorferi

Histopathology - B.burgdorferi
Histopathology using silver stain Borrelia burgdorferi spirochetes in Lyme disease. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Dr. Edwin P. Ewing, Jr.

Histopathology showing Borrelia burgdorferi spirochetes in Lyme disease. Dieterle silver stain used.

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Whitetail deer

whitetail deer
Serve as hosts to the ticks which carry the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi Whitetail deer serve as hosts to ticks. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

This photograph of a whitetail deer, Odocoileus virginianus, was taken during a Lyme disease field investigation in 1993. Whitetail deer are investigated during outbreaks of Lyme disease because they serve as hosts to the ticks which carry the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, responsible for Lyme disease.

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White-footed mouse

White-footed mouse
Host to ticks carrying Borrelia burgdorferi White-footed mouse serves as a primary reservoir for B. burgdorferi. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

This photograph depicts a white-footed mouse, Peromyscus leucopus, which is a wild rodent reservoir host of ticks known to carry the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, responsible for Lyme disease. During their larval stage, Ixodidae or hard ticks feed on small mammals, particularly the white-footed mouse, which serves as the primary reservoir for B. burgdorferi.

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Facial palsy

facial palsy
Caused by infection with the bacterial spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi Facial palsy - patient diagnosed with Lyme disease. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

This patient with facial palsy caused by an infection with the bacterial spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi was diagnosed with Lyme disease. In addition to multiple (secondary) erythema migrans lesions, an early disseminated Lyme disease infection may manifest itself as a disease of the nervous system, the musculoskeletal system, or the heart. Neuropathologic manifestations include lymphocytic meningitis, cranial neuropathy (especially facial nerve palsy) and radiculoneuritis.

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