Friday, April 6, 2012

2 Video: Jorge Benach On Tickborne Disease At Stony Brook

I came across this video on Youtube which I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere. It is a presentation by Dr. Jorge Benach on tickborne diseases, mostly focused on cases in New York State and much of it on Lyme disease - but there is also discussion on tickborne diseases in a more general sense as well.

I watched the video and made a note on topics of discussion during various points of time during the presentation which may be of interest to others.

Note that it is a little over an hour long, but you can skip the first three minutes as they are only an introduction. The last fifteen minutes are dedicated to a question and answer session with the audience - including one person who walked out because she was not satisfied with Dr. Benach's response.

[Time: 1:06:41]

11:39 Benach discusses Lone Star tick as primary tick on Long Island and that the number of cases of Lyme disease are going down in Eastern Long Island - possibly due to this tick's expansion.

16:33 Lifestyle of Ixodes tick described.

23:17 Early Babesia microti case on Long Island identified in 1970's - opens discussion on Babesiosis. Risk categories: over 50, elderly, asplenic, immunosuppressed, and/or alcoholism history.

29:00 Beginning of Lyme disease discussion... history of discovery, use of dark field microscopy for detection; electromicroscopy.

36:12 60% of patients have EM rash that is noticed. 40% do not.

37:00 Disseminated Lyme - Neuroborreliosis -20%, Cardiac disease- 5-10%, Arthritis - 60%

37:20 Secondary Disseminated symptoms - refractory to treatment - Benach does not understand what happens with chronic Lyme disease patients. Audience member brings up infection-related damage, Benach agrees with him that this is a problem - then goes back to discussing acute Lyme disease.

39:40 A rash that enlargens is clearly an EM rash. This is key to early diagnosis with a rash.

40:20 Multiple EM rash is sign of disseminated Lyme disease and requires IV or parenteral antibiotics.

40:57 Discusses spirochetes affecting the CNS and how it is similar to syphilis, and that a dementia-like form of Lyme disease is controversial. Audience member mentions person who was completely messed up by neurological Lyme disease; had CSF that was positive for Lyme disease and improved with IV treatment.

43:00 Benach thinks neurologic involvement in Lyme disease is underreported.

43:10 Explanation of Bells palsy in a child, says it is very common but not malignant.

43:57 Mentions Lyme arthritis in the classic sense. Discusses symptoms as relapsing and remitting.

44:38 Benach is under impression that most people's cases of Lyme disease are caught early and treated early due to presence of EM rash.

44:50 Epidemiology of Lyme disease in New York State and counties in NY. Benach thinks doctors in some counties are treating Lyme disease and are not reporting their cases to the state any more - they are "Lyme tired". For other counties, there is active surveillance, and the numbers are going up as more cases are new to their area.

47:00 Quip that LD now threatens politicians in Albany.

47:48 Is Lonestar tick driving other ticks away? Maybe… someone needs to study it.

48:13 Audience member asks about birds. Catbirds and robins have ticks, but don't carry a lot because they like the rims near eyes (bare skin). Birds are dead ends for the spirochetes because of their high temperature, according to Benach…

49:30 Start of Q & A session

51:38 Do people have natural immunity to Lyme disease? Benach does not think so - there is universal susceptibility to LD.

53:00 Jury still out on whether or not people have genetic susceptibility to Lyme disease. Hard to know if you are bitten multiple times if you have new instance of disease or preexisting disease because Lyme disease can last for 30 (possibly more) years in the human body.

54:40 No known existence of antibiotic resistant Lyme disease. Does he rule it out completely? No. But he states Borrelia are genetically challenged and have so few genes they need them to do housekeeping; they have a very small genome. He says there is no presence of those genes and he is 90% sure there is no antibiotic resistance.

57:09 Vaccine discussion - brief.

58:00 Pesticide soaked cotton balls used to fight ticks locally. (Damminix)

1:00 Opinion on prolonged chronic Lyme IV treatment: If  my child or I myself had a very strong titer for Lyme disease, I would use antibiotics for as long as it did good. If I did not have a very strong titer, then I would be reluctant to use antibiotics due to side effects.

Recurring arthritis and neurological manifestations come with strong serology according to Benach.

Benach leaves the audience with a confusing opinion: On one hand, he states he would not take antibiotics long term. On the other, he states that if he continued to be sick in the presence of strong serology then he would take antibiotics.

1:05 IgM doesn't drop over time in Lyme disease. We cannot culture Lyme disease easily, doesn't grow well in vitro - it is very slow growing. Only mycobacteria divides more slowly. You need 5 weeks to culture Borrelia. Benach's implication is no one would wait for those results - test is too difficult; takes too long.

More info. on Dr. Benach's research:


One of my main comments for now (I may add more later) is that I think Dr. Benach is wrong about the birds.

I found this article:

Migrating birds can easily carry Borrelia spirochetes because their average daytime temperature is around 42.5C and goes down to 33C at night - the birds temporarily have hypothermia. They do this to save energy during long trips.

While some strains of Borrelia are sensitive to the birds' higher temperature range, some birds are actually conducive of supporting Borrelia spirochetal infections. Catharus fuscescens is one example.


B. garinii, at 41C has the highest growth temperature on record. However, just because Borrelia stop growing doesn't indicate it is not present. Under varying temperature conditions, some Borrelia may be able to survive.

Another comment is that Dr. Benach mentions that Borrelia burgdorferi does not show signs of antibiotic resistance or genes for antibiotic resistance mechanism.

However, there are some spirochetes which have been resistant to erythromycin, and there is now some evidence of an antibiotic resistance mechanism in Bb:


  1. What a great find, CO!

    The slide at 33:54 about the characteristics of Spirochetal diseases is especially interesting:

    - Spirochetal diseases are CHRONIC
    - Spirochetal diseases can last over 30 years
    - Spirochetal diseases have a Relapsing-Remitting pattern of clinical manifestations
    - Spirochetal diseases are systemic

    I'll have to watch the rest of this presentation after getting some sleep.

    Given the extensive literature about the spread of Lyme disease through migratory birds, I tend to agree with you about Dr. Benach possibly being mistaken about that aspect of tick-borne illnesses.

  2. Hi Rita.

    So you saw that slide on his description of spirochetal diseases... Yes, it is interesting. Thirty years is pretty damned chronic, but I suspect he meant that it's chronic only if untreated. Leaving aside the controversy over whether or not spirochetes can survive antibiotic treatment, I can vouch for the rest being true based on my own experience

    This video with Benach was made in 2010. I am pretty sure by then there was enough research about birds to know they carry Borrelia-infected ticks. The article from Discover and evidence of B. garinii's spread is additional evidence that birds can be part of the web of infection.

    (BTW, if I seem slow to respond here lately and have been less present on LNE, it's because I have been feeling worse lately. Don't know why, just am.)


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