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This profile was last updated on 5/25/13  and contains information from public web pages.

Dr. Willy Burgdorfer

Wrong Dr. Willy Burgdorfer?


Phone: (301) ***-****  HQ Phone
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
6610 Rockledge Dr. Room 4800
Bethesda, Maryland 20892
United States

Company Description: NIAID conducts and supports research-at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide-to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to...   more

Employment History

Board Memberships and Affiliations


  • PhD
  • MD
  • Ph.D.
  • M.D. , P.C.
  • PhD National Institutes of Health
  • honorary MD degree
    University of Marseille
  • PhD Degree
    University of Basel
  • honorary MD degree
    University of Bern
138 Total References
Web References
In 1982, Willy Burgdorfer, ..., 25 May 2013 [cached]
In 1982, Willy Burgdorfer, an entomologist with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, discovered corkscrew-shaped bacteria in black-legged ticks from Long Island. He exposed the bacteria to serum from people with Lyme disease and discovered that their antibodies swarmed around the microbes.
Lyme Disease NIH INfo 2012, 28 April 2012 [cached]
Willy Burgdorfer, Ph.D., seen here inoculating ticks, discovered the spirochete, or corkscrew-shaped bacterium, that causes Lyme disease. The spirochete was later named for Dr. Burgdorfer: Borrelia burgdorferi. Credit: NIAID/RML
Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, was first isolated in 1982 by Willy Burgdorfer, Ph.D., a zoologist and microbiologist at NIAID's Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton, Montana.
About 2,000 miles away at RML, Dr. Burgdorfer was studying Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Dr. Burgdorfer was trying to help Jorge Benach, Ph.D., find the cause of more than 100 cases of spotted fever that occurred in New York from 1971 to 1976.
Dr. Benach, of the New York State Health Department, had been a source of American dog ticks for Dr. Burgdorfer to study.
Some 30 years earlier, while a college student in Basel, Switzerland, Dr. Burgdorfer began his studies of tickborne diseases and focused on relapsing fever. This bacterial disease was spread by fast-feeding, soft-bodied ticks that sent infectious corkscrew-shaped spirochetes into their blood-meal hosts. At the time of Dr. Burgdorfer's collaboration with Dr. Benach, spirochetes in slow-feeding, hard-bodied ticks-such as the deer tick or American dog tick-were rarely found.
Here is how all the preceding clues came together, as shared by Dr. Burgdorfer in a 1993 article he wrote for Clinics in Dermatology. Following his sabbatical, Dr. Burgdorfer resumed his Rocky Mountain spotted fever collaboration with Dr. Benach.
Dr. Burgdorfer recalled a 1949 conference he attended where attendees discussed a little-supported theory on Ixodidae-the family of hard ticks-spreading spirochetes and causing a European skin disorder.
Within hours of spotting and confirming the presence of spirochetes in the deer ticks, Dr. Burgdorfer dissected the remaining 124 ticks and found 75 with spirochetes. He cautiously wondered if he had found the cause of both the European skin disorder-erythema migrans-and Lyme disease. After notifying Dr. Benach and receiving serum from recovering Lyme disease patients, Dr. Burgdorfer and his colleagues found antibodies in the patient serum that reacted to spirochetes they had found in the deer ticks.
For his role, the Lyme-causing spirochete was named for Dr. Burgdorfer: Borrelia burgdorferi.
This spiral-shaped bacterium later was ..., 13 Mar 2007 [cached]
This spiral-shaped bacterium later was named Borrelia burgdorferi, after the NIAID scientist, Dr. Willy Burgdorfer, who discovered the microbe.
Lyme disease is a ..., 13 Sept 2006 [cached]
Lyme disease is a tick-transmitted multisystem infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), a spirochetal bacterium named after its discoverer and LDF Founding Board Member Willy Burgdorfer, PhD, MD (hon).
LDF -- Board of Directors, 21 Feb 2012 [cached]
Willy Burgdorfer, PhD, MD (Hon)
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