Edlow, Jonathan A. 1952-

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EDLOW, Jonathan A. 1952-


Born December 26, 1952, in MA. Education: University of Maryland School of Medicine, graduated 1978.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Yale University Press, P.O. Box 209040, New Haven, CT 06520-9040.


Physician. Practicing emergency medicine, 1981—; Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, Boston, MA, vice chair of the department of emergency medicine; Harvard Medical School, Boston, assistant professor of medicine.


American College of Emergency Physicians.


Bull's-Eye: Unraveling the Medical Mystery of Lyme Disease, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2003.

Contributor of medical detective stories to periodicals, including Ladies' Home Journal and Boston.


Jonathan A. Edlow, who specializes in emergency medicine, has a particular interest in Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. His Bull's-Eye: Unraveling the Medical Mystery of Lyme Disease is a study of the disease first named in Lyme, Connecticut, in the mid 1970s. Two housewives, Judith Mensch and Polly Murray, who observed similar symptoms among members of their families and others in the community, began to document the arthritis, rashes, swelling, and fatigue that are consistent with Lyme. They mapped cases and symptoms without realizing that they were using epidemiological methods, and Murray wrote about their findings in her 1996 book, The Widening Circle. As the newly named disease was studied, it became apparent that this was the same disease that had surfaced in other parts of the country and the world over many years.

A Milwaukee dermatologist who had read in a 1958 medical journal of the meningitis and rash caused by a 1930 tick bite in Sweden wrote a paper years later on an American case. The connection was made when U.S. Navy doctors discovered cases at the Groton, Connecticut, submarine base. They, in turn, published their findings in 1976.

Lyme disease is the result of a cycle between deer, ticks, and people. The tick passes a bacterium to humans through its bite. The causative agent of Lyme disease, a spirochete identified in 1982, was later named Borrelia burgdorferi. In his book, Edlow studies the history of Lyme disease, the tests used in an attempt to determine its presence, and various treatments. Kenneth R. Dardick wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association that Edlow "has done a masterful job of deconstructing Lyme disease from its caricatured 'bull's-eye' rash to an understanding of the ecology of the complex human-vector-agent relationship."

The author also includes portraits of scientists who have been instrumental in the identification and study of tick-borne diseases, including German doctor Robert Koch, who in the late 1800s became one of the earliest microbiologists after his wife gave him a microscope as a gift. In addition to studying tick-borne diseases, he developed methods of culturing anthrax and tuberculosis. The diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease remain inexact. Symptoms such as depression and fatigue are often hard to assign to the disease, and some but not all medical practitioners feel that treatment should include long-term antibiotic use. New York Times Book Review contributor Andrew C. Revkin felt that "the best thing of all about Bull's-Eye is that it lays out the unknowns along with the knowns, the mainstream view along with alternative readings, and thus reveals science for what it is: a perpetual, and admirable, work in progress."

Booklist critic Donna Chavez felt that Edlow's study, in addition to being a source for information on Lyme disease, is also "important for the light it sheds on the nature of scientific inquiry." New England Journal of Medicine reviewer Raymond Dattwyler, who called the book "beautifully written," noted that Edlow gives full credit to all who contributed to the understanding and treatment of Lyme disease, including nineteenth-century physicians, the Connecticut mothers, the U.S. Navy physicians, Centers for Disease control staff, the Connecticut Department of Public Health, and Yale University scientists who conducted extensive testing and experimentation. Dattwyler concluded that the book "is written in a clear, readable style that should appeal to both medical professionals and members of the general public."



Booklist, April 15, 2003, Donna Chavez, review of Bull's-Eye: Unraveling the Medical Mystery of Lyme Disease, p. 1437.

Journal of the American Medical Association, December 10, 2003, Kenneth R. Dardick, review of Bull's-Eye.

Library Journal, May 1, 2003, Kathy Arsenault, review of Bull's-Eye.

New England Journal of Medicine, September 4, 2003, Raymond Dattwyler, review of Bull's-Eye, p. 1008.

New York Times Book Review, July 27, 2003, Andrew C. Revkin, review of Bull's-Eye, p. 18.*