’Congressional watchdog’ to investigate ticks and Lyme disease as a bioweapon House approves Chris Smith amendment which could help find a cure for Lyme disease
An amendment offered by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) which directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the possible involvement of DOD biowarfare labs in the weaponization of Lyme disease in ticks and other insects from 1950-1975 was passed by the House last night.
During the debate on his amendment, Smith said Lyme disease patients have “a right to know” whether credible assertions made about causes for the explosion in Lyme disease are true.
He also said that with Lyme, like many other diseases, identifying an origin can help lead to treatment and a cure. While Lyme-like symptoms have been around for centuries, modern-day Lyme is especially debilitating and hazardous.
“ Perhaps most importantly, can any of this information help current-day researchers find a way to mitigate—and help facilitate a cure—for Lyme and other tick borne diseases,” he said.
The House sponsor of the TICK Act, the new law which implements a whole of government approach to combat Lyme disease, said “people who suffer with Lyme need the aid and support of the federal government and we must do everything we can to identify the origins of modern-day Lyme as a way to discover new treatments and therapies that may bring relief.
“For years books and articles have been written, credibly asserting that significant research at Ft. Detrick, Plum Island and elsewhere, was conducted to turn ticks into bioweapons,” Smith said. “In her recently published book “Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons” Kris Newby, includes interviews with Dr. Willy Burgdorfer—the researcher who is credited with discovering Lyme disease.
“Turns out, Dr. Burgdorfer was a bio-weapons specialist. The interviews combined with access to Dr. Burgdorfer’s files reveals that he and other bio-weapon specialists stuffed ticks with pathogens in a quest to cause severe disability, disease, and death to potential enemies.”
PHOTO: Smith on the House floor Monday night speaking about his amendment. Click here or on image to listen to his remarks.
With Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases exploding in the United States—there are an estimated 300,000 to 427,000 new cases each year and 10-20 percent of all patients suffering from chronic Lyme Disease—Smith has lead the charge for the federal government to provide more funding for research, surveillance, treatments and a cure.
The amendment mandating a GAO investigation into possible use of ticks in the bioweapons program could shed more light on the massive increase in Lyme disease and its heavier concentration in certain regions in the country.
Other questions the GAO is tasked to investigate include:
· what were the parameters of the program?
· who ordered it?
· how much did the program cost?
· where are the records?
· was there ever any accidental release anywhere or at any time of any diseased ticks?
· were any ticks released by design?
· did the program contribute to the disease burden?
Smith has a long record of fighting for people suffering from Lyme disease. His TICK Act enacted in December as part of the Fiscal Year 2020 omnibus appropriations bill calls for a national strategy to aggressively fight Lyme disease. The TICK Act (Ticks: Identify, Control, Knockout Act) (HR 3073) authorizes an additional $180 million to boost funding for Lyme research, prevention and treatment programs.
Smith—who is the founding co-chair of the House Lyme Disease Caucus along with Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN)—said the bill provides $60 million over five years to reauthorize the Regional Centers of Excellence in Vector Borne Disease which have led the scientific response against tick-borne diseases. And the bill authorizes new CDC grants for a total of $120 million over six years, to build a public health infrastructure for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. The legislation is supported by more than 25 non-government organizations dedicated to combating Lyme.