The Biography of a Germ

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Lyme Disease is a modern affliction from a truly ancient bug. It’s a misery of aches, depression and paralysis that’s picked up at the ritziest summer addresses, like Lyme, Connecticut on Long Island Sound and Nantucket Island, off Massachusetts.

There are truly disgusting details in the story of Lyme Disease — especially in the blood-sucking habits of the tiny saw-toothed ticks that carry the infectious bacteria in their saliva. But as the psychoanalyst Arno Karlen tells the tale, there’s also a representative fragment here of the universal history of life — and especially of the alliances that organisms make.

The Lyme Disease bug lives in ticks that 300 million years ago fed on dinosaurs and now live on whitefoot mice and white-tailed deer that are repopulating the suburban woodlands of New England and the far west. It’s human development, Dr. Karlen says, that’s revived a microbe that will doubtless outlast us.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Arno Karlen, psychoanalyst and author of Biography of a Germ

Dr. John Marr, New York Medical College.