The House of Representatives has approved a request by New Jersey U.S. Rep. Chris Smith directing the Department of Defense's Inspector General to determine whether the military experimented with ticks and insects as possible biological weapons between 1950 and 1975.

The 4th Congressional District representative said he wants to know if such experimentation is connected with the growth of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases in the United States.

"With Lyme disease and other tickborne diseases exploding in the United States, with an estimated 300,000 to 427,000 new cases each year and 10 to 20% of all patients suffering from chronic Lyme disease, I believe Americans have a right to know whether any of this is true," Smith said on the House floor last week.

If true, what were the parameters of the program? Who ordered it? Was there any accidental release anywhere or at any time of any of the diseased ticks? Were any ticks released by design?

In the book, there is some talk of that happening at or near Richmond, Virginia. Can any of this information
help current-day researchers—and this is most important of all—help current day researchers find a way to mitigate and maybe even cure these diseases?

It should be noted for the record that it was President Richard Nixon in 1969 who ordered the end to all bioweapons research, but we know that there were tick farms at Plum Island and Fort Detrick, like I said earlier, and other places where this research was done.

Lyme disease got its name in the 1970s after research of cases near Lyme, Connecticut, but the symptoms related to the illness have been known as far back as colonial times.

Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics but some people say they continue to suffer long after the disease has been treated. There's disagreement over the diagnosis of "chronic Lyme disease," which many in the medical community do not support.

The Republican said he was inspired by “a number of books and articles suggesting that significant research had been done at U.S. government facilities including Fort Detrick, Maryland, and Plum Island, New York, to turn ticks and other insects into bioweapons.

One book that got his attention was "Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons," which includes interviews with Willy Burgdorfer, the researcher who is credited with discovering Lyme disease.

The resolution directs the inspector general to find out the scope of experiments and whether any ticks or insects that were used were released either by accident or by "experiment design."

Smith has introduced the Ticks Identify, Control, Knockout Act (TICK), which authorizes an additional $180 million to boost funding for Lyme research, prevention and treatment programs.

Lyme disease is an illness caused by bacteria that is carried by ticks and can cause a variety of symptoms that, if left untreated, can be severe. It is spread by the bite of an infected tick and is not spread from person to person.

Symptoms of lyme disease may include a rash that looks like a bull's-eye, tiredness, fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches and joint pain. If left untreated, infected persons may develop arthritis, nervous system problems, and heart problems.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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