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Top Lyme Disease News of 2017

It was a big year for Lyme disease on Contagion®, with coverage of advances in early testing and other diseases that may be linked with the disease, to a panelist of experts debating the existence of chronic Lyme disease in our first-ever Peer Exchange® panel.

#5: Advances Are Being Made in Diagnostic Testing for Early Lyme Disease

One of the biggest challenges individuals with Lyme disease face is getting a correct, timely diagnosis of their illness. The problem is the diagnostic tests that are currently available, along with the current standard testing protocol, are a little outdated.

To discuss the pros and cons of the current diagnostic tests available for Lyme disease, members from academia, industry, and public health agencies—including some from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Food and Drug Administration—convened at a Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Banbury conference. The meeting was so fruitful that they decided to develop an article on the discussions, which was published today in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“Currently the standard for laboratory diagnosis of Lyme disease is primarily based on the demonstration of antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferi (B. burgdorferi), the causative bacteria,” senior author Steven Schutzer, MD, a physician-scientist at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School told Contagion® in an interview. “The testing paradigm, a 2-tiered protocol, consists of a sensitive first test, usually an enzyme immunoassay that, if positive or borderline, is followed by a second assay, a Western immunoblot to increase specificity.” Although this approach has become standard when it comes to Lyme disease diagnosis, it is not without its drawbacks; this is not surprising, as the paradigm was established in 1994.

Learn more about the advances being made in diagnostic testing for early Lyme disease, here.

#4: Is the Medical Community Behind the Times When It Comes to Treating Lyme?

Lyme disease has been recognized in the United States for more than 40 years, with about 400,000 new cases occurring in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nineteen tick-borne diseases now affect Americans, and 1 tick bite can cause more than 1 disease. A recent CDC study uncovered that ticks that cause Lyme disease are found in 50% of continental US counties. In addition, according to the results of a large Johns Hopkins University study, as many as 36% to 63% of patients with Lyme disease go on to develop chronic symptoms (posttreatment Lyme disease).

Major problems surrounding Lyme disease today include reliance upon dogma, promoting beliefs people are expected to accept without questioning or doubting, and the use of selective science by many in the medical community, the Lyme “experts,” who often blame the patient, the internet, and treating doctors with divergent opinions for their own lack of successful patient outcomes. They continue to approach Lyme with a “cookbook” approach. Patients are told the symptoms are “in their head,” that they need to stop reading the internet, or parents of patients are accused of Munchhausen by proxy syndrome (ie, making their children sick). These experts neither want to understand why their approach does not work, nor do they want to take the necessary time to understand the disease by researching and reading all the science, not just that which supports their unsuccessful treatment approach. Steeped in dogma, they ignore the fact that Lyme is meant to be a clinical diagnosis using testing as an adjunct.

Continue reading this commentary on the medical community’s approach to Lyme disease, here.

#3: Early Vs. Late Lyme Disease Symptoms

Peer Exchange panelists, Robert Bransfield, MD, DLFAPA, Samuel Shor, MD, FACP, Leonard Sigal, MD, and Patricia Smith, president, Lyme Disease Association, LLC, explore the controversy of early vs late-state Lyme disease symptoms.

Watch the discussion, here.

#2: Morgellons Found to Be Closely Linked With Lyme Disease

Morgellons disease has been a puzzle to practitioners for many years. Sufferers exhibit colorful filaments that protrude from their skin or nestle directly underneath it, resembling textile fibers in their texture and hue. Frequently, this unusual presentation led physicians to doubt that the filaments could originate from inside the skin and sufferers were traditionally thought to be delusional. Now, researchers associated with the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) have examined the results of several recent studies and concluded that not only do Morgellons filaments originate inside the skin, but the disorder is also closely linked to Lyme disease.

According to Raphael B. Stricker, MD, a San Francisco physician and ILADS member, histological studies demonstrate that the filaments are comprised of keratin and collagen, proteins found in body tissues. These proteins appear to arise from cells located in multiple layers of the skin along with those of hair follicle roots; some of the fibers are actual hairs. Staining the different colored filaments has revealed them to be human tissue and dispelled any notion that the fibers contain materials normally found in clothing or other substances.

Read more about how Morgellons and Lyme disease are linked, here.

#1: Does Chronic Lyme Disease Exist?

In an interview with Contagion®, Robert Bransfield, MD, DLFAPA, Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, discussed the existence of chronic Lyme disease.

Hear what Dr. Bransfield has to say, here.