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This profile was last updated on 10/1/15  and contains information from public web pages.

Dr. Willy Burgdorfer

Wrong Dr. Willy Burgdorfer?

Zoologist and Microbiologist

Phone: (301) ***-****  HQ Phone
Local Address:  Hamilton , Montana , United States
National Institutes of Health
31 Center Dr. MSC 2062 Building 31, Room B1-W30
Bethesda , Maryland 20892
United States

Company Description: About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S....   more

Employment History

Board Memberships and Affiliations

  • Associate Member On the Forces Epidemiology Board
    Rickettsial Commission of the Armed


  • Ph.D. , zoology , parasitology and bacteriology
  • PhD Degree
    University of Basel
  • honorary MD degree
    University of Bern
  • honorary MD degree
    University of Marseille
200 Total References
Web References
LDA News & Updates [cached]
Dr. Willy Burgdorfer, PhD, zoologist and microbiologist, Scientist Emeritus, NIH's Rocky Mountain Labs, Montana died November 17, 2014, according to an early report from
News [cached]
Dr. Willy Burgdorfer, PhD, zoologist and microbiologist, Scientist Emeritus, NIH's Rocky Mountain Labs, Montana died November 17, 2014, according to an early report from
Lyme Disease NIH INfo 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.
New Page 2 [cached]
The discovery of the strain of Borrelia that causes Lyme disease was made in 1982 by a National Institutes of Health (NIH) researcher named Dr. Willy Burgdorfer at NIH Rocky Mountain Laboratory (RML) in Montana, USA. The particular strain that causes Lyme disease infection is named Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) after its discoverer, Dr. Burgdorfer. Borrelia burgdorferi has subsequently been shown to be a stealth pathogen that has the metamorphic ability to change its presentation from spirochete into cyst and bleb forms. Dr. Burgdorfer and fellow researchers at RML determined through their research that Bb uses its metamorphic ability as a survival mechanism within its host.
New Page 2 [cached]
It was subsequently named Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), in honor of Willy Burgdorfer, Ph.D., a pioneer researcher.
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