Western Fence Lizard

Western Fence Lizard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Leapin’ Lizards” and “It’s a Hard Knock Life”, Borrelia. That’s what little orphan annie said.

Leapin Lizards, on August 8th I shared a link on my face book page about how UC Berkeley scientists had revealed that ticks that feed on the blood of the western fence lizard in California showed no signs afterwards of infection from you, Borrelia!! AMAZING. A-MAZING. Something in the blood of the western fence lizard, when sucked in by the the little tickie-poos, was able to kill you off and render the tick devoid of you!! Meaning the tick was no longer an infection risk to humans. What?!? Who is at the root of this great work? And what does this mean in the fight against lyme disease? Debi Seibert and Lynne Grayson (lyme whisperer followers on facebook), hope you enjoy this update!

Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)

Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) (Photo credit: Larry Meade)

Well, for starters, Dr. Robert Lane of UC Berkely has a series of published work on this effect of the western fence lizard dating back to 1989. In Dr. Lane’s 1989 study, your spirochetes, Borrelia,  were not found in the blood of 261 wild-caught lizards, including  lizards fed upon by infected ticks at the time of collection. In the 1990 study, Dr. Lane attempted to infect the western fence lizard with you, Borrelia, and was unsuccesfful. In the 1992 study, 0 of 223 tick larvae and 2 of 330 nymphs (0.6%) that had fed on the western fence lizard contained your little spirochete presence,  Borrelia. And, spirochetes were NOT found in the blood of lizards examined. These results are only a partial summary, but they are impressive!!

What does all this point to Borrelia?? That there is a Borreliacidal factor in the blood of the western fence lizard! Borrerliacidal…don’t you loooove that term?! I DO. As concluded in a 1998 study by Dr. Lane, “We conclude that the blood of S. occidentalis contains a thermolabile, borreliacidal factor, probably a protein, that destroys spirochetes in the midgut diverticula of feeding I. pacificus (tick)  nymphs.”

A 2000 study shed some light on exactly that that protein in the western fence lizard blood may be by stating, “Proteins comprising the alternative complement pathway are responsible for the borreliacidal activity observed in the blood of S. occidentalis.” Any other biology majors out there? The Complement System is a part of the innate immune system that helps or “complements” the ability of antibodies and other immune cells to attack and clear harmful oganisms from the body. It  consists of a number of small proteins found in the blood, generally synthesized by the liver. These proteins typically circulate in inactive form until triggered.

Ironically–and Lynne Grayson you won’t like this–there is an eastern fence lizard but they do not show the same ability to rid ticks of Borrelia, according to a 2007 study, and therefore will not reduce the risk of lyme disease in certain geographical regions. 😦

Dr. Lane’s most recent works were published in 2011 and 2012. And after reading them, I had to wonder, as did my curious facebook followers after I posted my intial post on August 8th, were studies being conducted to isolate the protein from the western fence lizard and was anything being done to develop it commrecially? So that we would have a potential therapeutic agent against you someday Borrelia??! Well, why not ask the gentlemen behind it all? So, I emailed Dr. Lane at UC Berkeley! Oooh I felt almost as excited as Ralphie from A Christmas Story waiting for his orphan annie secret decoder ring in the mail. What would Dr. Lane say??

Unfortunately, this is where “It’s a Hard knock Life” comes in…Dr. Lane kindly responded by saying “Thank you for your interest in our lizard research.  Regrettably, we have nothing else new to report with respect to it since publication of our 2006 article demonstrating the refractoriness of the western fence lizard to Borrelia bissettii spirochetes. Again, thank you for contacting me, and keep up the good work.”

Well, Borrelia, seems like us lymies won’t have a lizard blood potion any time soon. Another knock for us. No vaccine. No magic pill. So disappointing that the western lizard may hold the key but nothing is being done–at least at the moment–to capitalize on this scientific discovery. As always, we can only hope for the time being. Leapin’ Lizards.

Debi, Lynne, and everyone else, I hope you are pleased with this update. And I am thankful for Dr. Lane for responding to my inquiry! And for all his research. Who knows, maybe something will be developed in the future based on all the important work he has done….