House orders Pentagon to reveal if it turned ticks into biological weapons

The US House of Representatives ordered a probe into whether the Pentagon tried to use ticks and other bugs as biological weapons over a 25-year period.

Lawmakers passed an amendment last week that calls on the Department of Defense’s inspector general to investigate.

Text of the amendment, which was proposed by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), says the inspector general will “conduct a review of whether the Department of Defense experimented with ticks and other insects regarding use as a biological weapon between the years of 1950 and 1975.”

During a debate on Thursday, Smith said “for years, books and articles have been written suggesting that significant research had been done at US government facilities, including Fort Detrick and Plum Island, to turn ticks and other insects into bioweapons.”

He then cited a new book, “Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons,” that contains interviews with Dr. Willy Burgdorfer, who discovered the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

“It turns out Dr. Burgdorfer was also a bioweapons specialist,” Smith said. “The interviews combined with access to Dr. Burgdorfer’s lab files reveal that he and other bioweapons specialists stuffed ticks with pathogens to cause severe disability, disease and even death to potential enemies.”

Smith added, “I believe Americans have a right to know whether any of this is true.”

Each year, roughly 30,000 cases of Lyme disease — which causes fatigue, flu-like symptoms and a red bull’s-eye mark — are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says about 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease annually.

Most cases can be cured with antibiotics, but if left untreated, the disease can cause facial paralysis, arthritis, fever and rash.

If the inspector general does find evidence that the government weaponized ticks or insects, Smith’s amendment orders a report on whether any bugs “used in such experiment were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design.”

Earlier this year, Smith, a longtime Lyme disease advocate, introduced a bill that would authorize $180 million in funding for Lyme disease research, prevention and treatment programs.

He is also the founding co-chair of the House Lyme Disease Caucus.

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