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Kris Newby’s important new book, Bitten, explores the background of Lyme disease and Prof. Mark Crispin Miller shares his years of frustration that led to diagnosis and treatment for chronic Lyme.Newby’s book is Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons. She is an award-winning science writer based in Palo alto, California. Miller is Professor of Media Studies at NYU, the author of many books; as he explains, it took 6 years to get an accurate diagnosis, and he is currently in treatment.
We open with Newby’s account of a sailing vacation near Cape Cod, where she and her husband were both infected by ticks. As the symptoms grew worse, they bounced from doctor to clinic to specialist before they got an accurate diagnosis. Newby helped produce Under Our Skin, a powerful documentary directed by Andy Abrahams Wilson, who was a guest on this podcast. She had moved on from Lyme when she saw an interview with Willy Bergdorfer, who is the central figure in her book. Bergdorfer got credit and acclaim when he identified the causes of Lyme in the 1970’s.
But his work in America’s secret biological weapons programs at Ft. Detrick in the 1950’s and ’60’s led Newby to dig deeper. She has opened up lines of investigation that expose Bergdorfer’s work on fleas that were weaponized with Bubonic plague, as Dr. Jeff Kaye reported to us in 2018. She also notes experiments conducted on Plum Island, in Long Island Sound, which may have been the source of original infections in nearby Lyme, Connecticut. Newby got one of the last interviews with Bergdorfer before he died, and says he displayed regret for his role but was not specific.
Miller joins us, and relates his difficult 6-year search for a diagnosis; even the Mayo Clinic couldn’t determine the cause of his illness. In a good exchange with Newby, they compare notes on the hurdles they faced, and the media blackout of Lyme–which appears to extend to her new book.
We discuss the recent amendment to a Pentagon budget bill by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), which calls for a study of the military’s roles in the development of Lyme and the long-running coverup.
At the close, Newby and Miller each suggest some good books on Lyme disease, and the documentary series Wormwood by Errol Morris.