Sunday, November 27, 2011

2 News: Substantial Increase In Tick Activity Concerns Canadian Officials

Good news from Canada about increasing Lyme disease awareness: The Kingston Whig Standard newspaper has written about the record number of ticks residents sent into the health unit for Lyme disease testing and the number of ticks found positive so far.


"Following a substantial increase in the number of ticks submitted for testing this year, officials with the local health unit hope to draw a bullseye around the issue of Lyme disease in order to prevent a rash of new cases in 2012.

Joan Mays, manager of health protection for the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit, said there have been 568 tick submissions to the health unit so far this year. Of these, she said, 40 have tested positive for the bacteria that causes the disease, with the health unit still awaiting the results of 271 tests."

Health unit officials noted that an extension of warmer temperatures through the season has led to longer tick activity during the year, and more Canadians are becoming aware of Lyme disease and sending their ticks in to be tested so they may find out if they may have the disease.

I find it encouraging that more people are sending in their ticks and health unit officials are taking notice. Lyme disease is in Canada and there is no sign it is going away. This is just one sign of greater awareness - but more early testing for Lyme disease in people would be even better.

Read more here:

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

0 News: Judy Mikovits To Be Released On Bail

The latest report on the Mikovits case comes from the AAAS Science Insider:

Regarding the outcome of today's proceedings, the judge granted a request for a continuance on the extradition demand and asked Mikovits to return on the 19th of December.

Mikovits, who has denied wrongdoing through lawyers handling her civil suit, posted bail shortly after the hearing and has been expected to be released this evening.

More details on the case and discussion of a settlement can be found here, on the Ventura County Star site:

And here, Nature blog discloses that one of Mikovits' fellow researchers, Max Pfost, claims to have stolen her notebooks and to have given them to Mikovits', but Mikovits' denies this.

Nature blog also states:

The affidavits add a new wrinkle, alledging that Mikovits, a chronic fatigue syndrome researcher, was scheming with Pfost to “move the grants from WPI”. This includes about half of a US$1.5 million research grant (an R01) from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In a meeting at a bar the night Mikovits was fired, Pfost claims: “She stated she was going to try to move the RO 1 grant and the Department of Defense (DOD) grants and stop the Lipkin study.”

More here:

The plot thickens... What really happened has yet to be seen.
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0 Article: The Mouse Trap: How One Rodent Rules The Lab

Slate recently posted a three part series on the use of mice in biomedical research and how that use has helped as well as hindered drug development and scientific understanding of human illness.

This three part series kicks off with "The Mouse Trap: the dangers of using one lab animal to study every disease", which examines the rise in the use of the murine (mouse) model  to test new pharmaceuticals and get a better understanding of human processes in illness. We also learn that this model - useful as it has been - has its drawbacks.

 Mark Mattson, neuroscientist, finds that murine studies may not accurately represent what happens between the study and control group when the control group is often overfed, sedentary, and develops cancer, renal problems, and diabetes - unlike a wild mouse living in its normal habitat. It was later discovered that medication which worked in chubby rodents did not go on to work in rodents with a normal weight and activity level.

Furthermore, in clinical trials on humans later on, the difference between plump mice and a diverse group of humans was too great. A drug which worked in the rodents did not work in humans at all.

Cheap, efficient, and mass produced, these mice are raised in germ-free barrier rooms and sometimes pumped with antibiotics. The ease in which they can be raised, bred, and genetically modified to single out specific processes similar to those in the human body to study has made mice very popular for researchers. While they can closely model many processes in the human body, are they a close enough match for modeling and testing everything?

Mattson argues they are not, and that science needs to wake up and take a closer look at how heavily mice have been used to make decisions that affect human medicine. He's not the only one, either - Clif Barry, the nation's leading expert on tuberculosis, thinks the murine model has shortcomings too. This is no clearer than in work in his own field: The latent form of TB that humans get is not one which can be found in mice. Mice do not experience a latent stage of TB - they only get progressively weaker, age, and die.

This particular passage from the article gave me a moment to pause and reflect:
"[...] for some patients a latent case of tuberculosis can suddenly become active. The granulomas rupture and propagate, spilling thousands of organisms into the lungs, where they can be aerosolized, coughed up, and passed on to a new host. Left untreated, the infection migrates into the bloodstream and other organs; widespread inflammation leads to burst arteries or a ruptured esophagus; and in about half of all cases, the patient dies.

The layered granuloma is the defining feature of human tuberculosis: The place where the host fights the infection (successfully or not), and the necessary site of action for any drug. To cure the disease, a treatment must be able to penetrate each ball of cells, whatever its type or composition; every last bacterium must be destroyed. "It's the structure of those granulomas that makes it so difficult to treat TB," says Barry. And they simply don't exist in mice.

If you infect a mouse with TB—if you spritz a puff of infected air into its nostrils through a trumpet, as so many labs do around the world—the animal's lungs quickly fill up with bacteria and immune cells, like a nasty case of pneumonia. There are no discrete balls of tissue, no well-defined granulomas sheathed in fibrin, no array of structures that harbor the bugs at various stages of development. The mice have no special, latent form of TB, either, and no way to pass on the disease. They simply die, after a year or two, of a slow and progressive decline.

That's why we've made so little progress using mice to generate new drugs and treatments, Barry tells me."
The article continues to outline the history behind why mice have become the dominant research model to use to determine whether or not a drug or treatment plan will be tried in clinical trials on people, and also discusses the setbacks generated by this decision. In the end, the verdict is that using mice has distinct limitations and a number of studies may be invalidated and useless because of it.

It does get me to wondering, of course, as to how useful the murine model is for studying Borrelia burgdorferi. Perhaps in some ways it is useful, but in others it is less so: Dr. Stephen Barthold has said mice are a poor model for neuroborreliosis.

And this does raise the question of which details are important in a study that the layperson will miss when reading it. The average person will read about the study design, and perhaps some discussion and the conclusion - but will one question the decision to use one research animal model over another? What about primers? What about media? What about any number of small details that once changed could result in a different outcome?

Read the full Slate article, and continue with the next two articles in the series. It is a fascinating look into the world of biomedical research, tradition, and profit.


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Saturday, November 19, 2011

0 News: Judy Mikovits, CFS Researcher, Has Been Arrested

While not directly about Lyme disease, any news about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) can be notable to the Lyme disease community as some patients have been diagnosed with CFS and any research on persisting fatigue and its cause has been of interest.

This is big news. While all the specifics behind the charges are unknown at this time, Retraction Watch just published that Judy Mikovits, a researcher involved in the XMRV controversy, has had a warrant out for her arrest for felony charges and was arrested in Ventura County, California, yesterday.

More information can be found here:

And here:

Mikovits' court appearance is scheduled for Nov 22, 2011 at 1:30PM in the Ventura County Superior Court.

More details on this as the story unfolds.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

5 News: Infected Ticks Found In New Brunswick

Dear Canadian doctors: Yes, Virginia, there IS Lyme disease in Canada. Please step up to the plate and diagnose and treat the growing number of Canadians with Lyme disease. Thank you...

Deer ticks found on Grand Manan

The provincial Health Department recently identified a breeding population of blacklegged ticks, properly Ixodes scapularis, sometimes called deer ticks, infected with Lyme disease at North Head, Grand Manan.

"We only confirmed that in the last week or so," New Brunswick's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eilish Cleary said in an interview from Fredericton Thursday.

Last year scientists confirmed a similar breeding population in the Millidgeville area of Saint John.

Scientists believe these creatures are moving north as the climate changes, bringing Lyme disease with it, Cleary said.


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2 Article: Anaplasmosis Plus Lyme Disease In Dogs = Sick As Dogs

The West Salem Veterinary Clinic reposted part of an August 2011 article on its site in the La Crosse Tribune in Wisconsin recently.

The original article is found here:

Here are two paragraphs I want share with all dog lovers out there:
Anaplasmosis phagocytophilum, previously known as Ehrlichia equi, is very prevalent in this area. It is spread by the same ticks as Lyme Disease and it can be a co-infection (both infections occurring at the same time) with Lyme Disease. Experts at IDEXX Laboratories, the manufacturers of the IDEXX SNAP® 4DX™ test, maintain that when a dog contracts Lyme disease or anaplasmosis alone, its immune system is more likely to suppress disease. However, a dog with both infections at once is more likely to become sick. IDEXX created the 4DX test to test for Heartworm, Lyme, Anaplasmosis, and Ehrlichia canis (another tick-borne disease that is not as prevalent in this area.)

If your dog shows any of the previously listed symptoms, he or she should be examined and tested. If your dog is positive for anaplasmosis, he or she should have a complete blood cell count performed to further evaluate for active disease. If your dog lives in this area, he or she should be on tick control year-round, screened with the 4DX test annually and vaccinated for Lyme Disease. Visiting dogs from other areas need tick control and screening as well. You cannot catch these diseases directly from your dog, but you are exposed to the same ticks in the environment as your dog, so be sure to use tick repellent on yourself and check for ticks on yourself as well as on your dog on a daily basis.

Now, my question is, how much more severe is the course of infection in humans who are infected by both Borrelia burgdorferi and Anaplasmosis phagocytophilum?

How do humans differ from dogs in this infectious disease model?

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0 News: Massachusetts Proposal For Lyme Research Institute Trust Fund

News from The Cambridge Chronicle, where the Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on seven roll calls and local senators on two roll calls from the week of October 31-November 4. One of this week's proposals is for establishing a special trust fund for Lyme disease research at the Universty of Massachusetts Medical School at Worcester:

LYME DISEASE RESEARCH (H 349) - The Higher Education Committee is considering a proposal that would establish a Lyme disease Research Institute Trust Fund to provide grants to the University of Massachusetts Medical School at Worcester for Lyme disease research.

The committee recently held a hearing on the bill. Supporters said current private funding is not sufficient to stop the proliferation of this serious tick-borne illness that if left untreated, can lead to serious heart, neurological, eye and joint problems.

James Gilbert, 32, of Dorchester lost his mother a few years after her diagnosis of late-stage Lyme disease. Gilbert himself was diagnosed with Lyme disease when he was 14. He was treated with antibiotics and though he noticed a marked decline in his overall health even after the antibiotic treatment concluded, he was able to function without debilitating hindrance until he turned 22. He was a tri-lingual "A" student who was attending Georgetown University when he began to suffer severely disabling health complications.

Gilbert submitted written testimony to the committee because his disease prevented him from traveling to the hearing. He noted that today he cannot work and has been forced to apply for Social Security disability benefits.

He said, "It is obvious that Lyme disease is still a mystery to the medical community, worthy of deeper scientific attention. The disease is also improperly viewed by the Infectious Disease Society of America. This has resulted in inadequate treatment methods and unnecessary, continuous suffering by the afflicted."

Gilbert urged creation of an Institute that is "sensitive to the needs of patients, and one whose research and treatment programs push the boundaries of traditional methodologies to improve patient care."

Source link:

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

0 Two Notable Antibiotic Articles - Long-term Effects & Alternatives

H. pylori: Friend or foe?
Answer: It depends...
I know some of you reading along may have already seen this, but I think it bears mentioning again and also bears mentioning for those who may not have seen it: The New York Times recently published an article on the long-term effects of antibiotic usage, "In Some Cases, Even Bad Bacteria May Be Good".

After reading the above link, I found it fascinating and disturbing that antibiotics not only could contribute to obesity - the hypothesis originally being test driven by the writer - but that antibiotic use could also lead to allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, and gastroesophageal reflux. These are conditions which are not only common in Lyme disease patients, but in the general population as well.

Among the astonishing findings in this article:
  • Eradicating H. pylori infections entirely leads to the inability of ghrelin (a hunger hormone secreted in the stomach) to decrease in the stomach, thus leaving the brain to think it's always time to eat more. Therefore, lack of infection = eating more = weight gain.
  • Researchers found that the ratios of various bacteria in the guts of obese mice and obese humans were significantly different from those of lean controls, suggesting that altering the stomach’s microbial balance with antibiotics might put patients at risk for gaining weight. H. pylori is not the only culprit for change.
  • Less H. pylori in someone's system is associated with a greater risk of not only asthma but gastric reflux disease as well.
  • The human body contains a very complex bacterial ecosystem which we don't know anywhere near as much about as we should. Knowing about it is important in understanding the cause for disease and how to prevent it.
  • It's not just antibiotics that are changing the human microbiota - many aspects of modern life, including diet, smaller families, more hygienic practices and improved public sanitation, are affecting our bacterial communities.
The research cited contains sobering news and adds to the realization that as much as antibiotics have brought deadly infections under control and saved lives, they can have negative side effects and possibly more longer term consequences than at first realized.

All this said, I have been an advocate of antibiotic usage to treat Lyme disease - especially in its early stage and with a clear case of neuroborreliosis - because antibiotics have been tested and used in clinical trials for many years for their effectiveness. It's  important in the case of neuroborreliosis to ensure that treatment can pass the blood-brain barrier, and so far antibiotics have been tested which are demonstrated to have this property.

So I still stand by the use of antibiotics for their effectiveness and documented record for helping patients everywhere. However,  I am aware that in the future, antibiotics may not work as well as they once did due to antibiotic resistance, and this knowledge of longer term effects concerns me as well. Alternatives will need to be found that are safe and effective.

What sort of treatment could be available other than antimicrobial herbs?

The answer may be as close as your local wallaby.

Okay, well, for most people reading this, wallabies are hardly local to them - unless you are one of my Australian readers or you have a decent zoo nearby.

Last month, Byte Size Biology blog published an entry on the innate immune system and research on cathelicidins, specifically those peptides found within marsupials - including wallabies - which can fight off infection.

A baby kangaroo (joey) or wallaby is born in its fetal stage and must travel across its mother's abdomen and into a pouch to complete development. This can expose the fragile fetus to all sorts of germs, so what protects it? While the joey has adaptive immunity which is quite undeveloped, it can produce some killer all-purpose peptides he can use against microbes.

The same class of peptides are produced in Kanga’s milk. (Think of the idea as being similar to colostrum in cows, perhaps?) Collectively they are known as cathelicidins. Only about 30 amino acids long, these highly charged molecules kill both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.

Preliminary studies were conducted on the use of cathelicidins as antibiotics. The author of Byte Size Biology wrote:
"They used cathelicidins from wallaby and platypus to kill human pathogens: P. aeruginosa, K. pneumoniae and A. baumanii, including antibiotic resistant strains. Cathelicidins were much more effective than, well, antibiotics against those bacteria. Also, cathelicidins did not kill human red blood cells, which makes them a potential drug. Of course, immune reaction against cathelicidins as a foreign still needs to be checked, among many, many other things, but the whole idea of looking at marsupials is that, as mammals, they may be able to supply us with clues on how to synthesize a cathelicidin to be used as a drug in humans."
More research is needed, obviously, but this may be one option to antibiotics sitting in your medicine cabinet of the future.

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

2 Admin Update: Lyme Disease Awareness and Outreach

There are a lot of ways to spread support for Lyme disease awareness. Some people make web sites, some people make Lyme disease related clothing, some people make bracelets and other jewelry, and then others make the popular Lyme disease support ribbons. Some people hold fundraisers like Lyme walks or benefits at local bars.

Here in the virtual world, we can't really give each other tangible items to wear and hold, but we can make representations of them.

I've been searching far and wide to find something that would represent my strong desire for support for more Lyme disease research, and perhaps my search-fu is broken, but I couldn't find anything suitable after googling "Lyme disease support ribbon" and "research".

So I initially found a commercial support ribbon generator and played with it... Netting this result:

And I realized that wasn't really working for me.

So I've been working on creating my own awareness and support badge, and here is my rough draft:

What do you think?

It's only a rough draft, mind you, and will need to be rescaled.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

0 News: Tickborne Disease Outbreak Hits Australia

Brushtail possum
While there has been some controversy over the existence of Lyme disease in Australia, there is no debate over the existence of another tickborne illness, Tularemia - also known as rabbit fever caused by the bacteria, Francisella tularensis.

There are now two reported cases of Tularemia in residents from Tasmania, though the disease is more common in Asia and the US.

Reading about this news originally reminded me of a film I watched a few years ago, Rabbit Proof Fence - and it made me think that more surveillance than ever is needed for rabbits downunder... However, in this case, it was handling possums which gave the unlucky pair the infection. And even though ticks carrying Tularemia are often found on rabbits, the bacteria can affect 250 different species of mammals and birds.

The bacteria which causes the disease can live in wet environments for months and can be transmitted by contact, eating infected animals and through biting insects such as mosquitos, flies, and ticks.

Symptoms include fever, headaches, joint stiffness and shortness of breath. Complications include bone infection, infection of the sac around the heart(pericarditis), meningitis and pneumonia.

It is treatable with antibiotics but can be fatal if left untreated.

Read more:

Video Announcement:

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

0 Science Articles: Probiotics As Anti-inflammatories, Bacterial Gene Transfer

Probiotics Effective in Combating Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea, Studies Find; 'Good Bugs' Look Promising as Anti-Inflammatory Agents

In four different studies presented at the American College of Gastroenterology's (ACG) 76th Annual Scientific meeting in Washington, DC, researchers explored the effectiveness of probiotics for antibiotic-associated diarrhea; as an anti-inflammatory agent for patients with ulcerative colitis, psoriasis and chronic fatigue syndrome; and for people with abdominal discomfort and bloating who have not been diagnosed with a functional bowel disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

American College of Gastroenterology

READ MORE at source:

Bacteria May Readily Swap Beneficial Genes: Microbes Trade Genetic Coding for Antibiotic Resistance and More

Much as people can exchange information instantaneously in the digital age, bacteria associated with humans and their livestock appear to freely and rapidly exchange genetic material related to human disease and antibiotic resistance through a mechanism called horizontal gene transfer (HGT).

Chris S. Smillie, Mark B. Smith, Jonathan Friedman, Otto X. Cordero, Lawrence A. David, Eric J. Alm. Ecology drives a global network of gene exchange connecting the human microbiome. Nature, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nature10571

READ MORE at source:

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

0 Institute of Medicine Final Report on October 2010 Tickborne Disease Workshop

Back in October 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) held a workshop which was broadcast online live (and remains available at TV worldwide), Critical Needs and Gaps in Understanding: Prevention, Amelioration, and Resolution of Lyme and Other Tick-Borne Diseases: The Short-Term and Long-Term Outcomes.

The workshop participants were members of the Institute of Medicine, various researchers, doctors, and members of the Lyme disease patient advocacy community.

A preliminary summary report on the workshop was published by the IOM in April 2011. Now, an official final report has been published and is available on PubMed:

For a more detailed table of contents, try:

Editors: Committee on Lyme Disease and Other Tick-Borne Diseases: The State of the Science.

Source: Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011.
The National Academies Collection: Reports funded by National Institutes of Health.


It was obvious to participants at the workshop that a significant impasse has developed in the world of Lyme disease. There are conflicts within and among the science; policy; politics; medicine; and professional, public, and patient views pertaining to the subject, which have created significant misunderstandings, strong emotions, mistrust, and a game of blaming others who are not aligned with one’s views. Lines in the sand have been drawn, sides have been taken, and frustration prevails. The “walk in the woods” process of conflict resolution or a similar process seems necessary for creating a new environment of trust and a better environment for more constructive dialogue to help focus research needs and achieve better outcomes. Such a process does not imply a compromise of the science but rather is needed to shift to a more positive and productive environment to optimize critical research and promote new collaborations.

I'd have to say this is a good report for those who are new Lyme disease and other tickborne illnesses to read in order to get an idea of what issues concern researchers and patients.

In terms of an action item plan and treatment to help patients, though, this report is lacking in either and what is sorely needed at this point in time.

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