Thursday, May 31, 2012

2 Anonymous Comments On Chronic Lyme Disease

Last year someone who identified only as "anonx" wrote some interesting comments on last January's blog post on quorum sensing, "How bacteria "talk" and how to make them shut up". (There is a fascinating video there by researcher Bonnie Bassler. I highly recommend checking it out.)

To my knowledge, comments on Blogger do not get syndicated on post rss feeds - though one can request rss comments separately. I think that anonx's comments are worth taking another look, so I have decided to repost select excerpts of them here. (Refer back to the original comment thread for the CO side of the dialog, if needed.)

Anonymous January 21, 2011 5:06:00 PM HST
persister cells
quorum sensing
round bodies
biofilms made of borrelia
biofilms made of a mix of pathogens
symbiosis in all its forms and iterations
the cascade of genospecies and strains
quiescence and dormancy
borrelia stuck in B cells with CLIP attached
the role of toll-like receptors&inflammation
the growing list of possible co-infections
new view of PANDAS that goes way beyond strep...
molecular mimicry

guess I'll stop here but I could go on --you just need a little proof: not just proof it is happening but proof that treating it will end the illness. that's the problem.

Anonymous January 21, 2011 11:03:00 PM HST

Don't you think that looking at persistence in isolation could be futile, given the large number of people treated for years without cure? Persistence could be the imperceptible spark that incites an immune tsunami. What if it is easier to treat the tsunami --by its nature outsized and blatant and in your face-- than the spark which, though present and incendiary, we cannot find? Is it possible that the yin and yang nature of the fight has prevented a view of the system overall? What if a tiny amount of infection has caused a huge inflammatory response? What if that infection is hiding in B cells because a glitch in the system has prevented T cells from recognizing the foreign invader, and thus, from finishing the job? What IF to get rid of the persistent infection, you must treat immune dysfunction first? So no ...I don't think it is as simple as you say, or that by conceiving the issue along the old paradigms of the fight, raging fruitlessly for 30 years, you will get what you want ... unless of course, it is really as simple as you suggest. I mean, what if you prove persistence, but it still won't bring a cure?

Anonymous January 22, 2011 11:57:00 AM HST

regarding the four trials cited, they do in fact show benefit to retreatment for fatigue and pain --and thus, in fact do not match with the wording of the conclusions rendered or (in the case of two of three authors) forced down those authors throats by the powers that be. There is actually ample evidence in these trials to suggest a benefit to retreatment and longer treatment --and in the case of the Klempner trial, serious issues with methodology. But as you say, the outcome of these trials must be detached from pathophysiology --what is the mechanism of the benefit? That question the trials do not address.

Still, to detach infection from immune response is just plain wrong-headed. We are 10% by weight bacteria, and most of those organisms are beneficial. The question is --which are the pathogens, and how do those pathogens do us in? In every case, inflammation and cellular immunity are going to play a role.

Anonymous January 22, 2011 11:15:00 PM HST

It is a very complicated problem, as you say.

It is TRUE that if you suppress inflammation infection would spiral out of control: The murine studies on borrelia and toll-like receptors show that to be right.

But here's the thing: Most researchers, even most of the IDSA researchers, don't actually deny that organisms can persist. They just deny that those quiescent remaining organisms are driving the continued symptoms --they say these persisting borrelia are too few, and too dormant. And they would cite the research on quorum sensing to support their case.

As I see it, it is not really persistence you need to prove, but rather, the mechanism by which persistence at the low level research suggests drives the disease. Inflammation is not the only immune mechanism --cellular immunity or dysfunction thereof can play havoc, too, and persistent infection could drive it in an endless loop.

Also: Treatment studies without knowing more about pathophysiology can work against you, because --hell-- they are just empiricism on top of empiricism, more wandering in the dark.

I contend you need more basic biology to target such studies, strategically. If you were to move forward without that, you would need an elaborate methodology with many variables and large enough numbers of patients to test for many possibilities and separate the data from the noise. And with Lyme patients still so ill-defined, with no test extant for active infection ...

Makes my head spin. A hundred million dollars would help.

Anonymous January 23, 2011 1:34:00 PM HST


My comments refer specifically to the Barthold work, with which I am extremely familiar. Barthold's findings of small numbers of dormant, quiescent spirochetes within collagen across the range of mammalian species following treatment have been well-known inside the mainstream (though published only recently) for decades. There is no great rush to debunk Barthold, whose research really is beyond dispute --Barthold himself being an especially meticulous and careful scientist. What his critics say, however, is that these spirochetes are not active enough and not numerous enough to cause disease. (to wit: issue of quorum sensing.) Barthold theorizes otherwise, contending that the small numbers of chetes may provoke an outsized --but heretofore undetected-- cytokine cascade that causes the disease. Barthold would classify this cascade under the heading of INFLAMMATORY response. This is his theory --and a powerful one that should be explored.

You may have noticed that NIH has begun to test the Barthold work with a study of xenodiagnosis, but patients are protesting that study for fear that the ticks used might not be as naive as claimed: And really, given the confusion over pathogens involved, who knows?

Other theories of persistence to pursue include the impact of round bodies AND the work of Newell, who finds Borrelia stuck inside B cells because of a dysfunction in MHC.

In the case of Newell, especially, the notion is that persistent infection can never be cured without correcting the recognition dysfunction of MHC. In other words, even though the disease is driven by persistence, Newell says you have to correct the immune problem first.

And by the way, both she and Barthold insist you can never entirely clear borrelia infection with antibiotics alone --you need the immune system to do the final kill, and so you must have an immune correct FIRST, even if the driver is persistence.

Or it could be the round bodies... but whatever it is, it is complicated --and simply fueling the fight of persistence versus immunity isn't helpful.

There is a difference between what patients use to get well right now --the ax in the form of huge quantities of endless suppressive antibiotics-- and what they should want for the future --the chisel, which could well be an immune correction that allows infection finally to be resolved. There should be a divide between the effort to protect a Lyme doc in the here and now and the direction of research for the future --but it is hard for a lot of people to understand this.

I agree with you that if we knew the mechanism we would have a target --and that is why I am so equivocal if not outright squeamish about the continued treatment trials some patients are calling for.

What are they treating? --and if they don't really know, there is a big risk that study could bury them deeper and darker than ever before.


Anonymous  January 23, 2011 7:27:00 PM HST

Given current state of knowledge immune treatments could backfire, big time --as the literature shows. If you look at the work on toll-like receptors you find a genetic curve for inflammatory response to borrelia ranging from almost nothing to off-the-charts and everything in between. That is just one immune parameter, and there are many others. These parameters could vary for every infection or strain and every person. Therefore it is possible with current state of knowledge that suppressive abx are really the best we have... there needs to be a crunching of data to understand what we are looking at --otherwise, it is just stumbling in the dark. The amazing thing is that the IDSA crew has gotten away with such a grotesquely oversimplified story of this disease for so long --and that to explain it, they perpetuate the explanation that it is a psychosis instead of a complex spectrum of infection and immune response. But by giving an oversimplified rejoinder, patients have hurt their cause, too.

In a gross way one could do a study treating infection, treating immune issues or treating both: but this would be very crude without more data up front.



So I do have a few comments on this, now that it's nearly a year and half since these comments were posted. My thoughts on the matter have shifted over time, and after exposure to more research.

  • I'd like to see evidence that Borrelia burgdorferi is hiding in B cells in vivo. That would be informative. There has been some mention of Bb being intracellular in a few in vitro studies and one in  vivo study; we need more.
  • This anonymous author may be on to something, and it may be that the host immune response may need to be addressed in order to manage the remaining infection if it is still present. Not enough is known, but when I read about filgrastim and rixtuximab and how they have some positive effect on a patients with persisting symptoms of Lyme disease or CFS/ME,  I think that adjusting the host immune response is an avenue worth exploring. It should have been explored more years ago.
  • I still think the trials must be detached from pathophysiology. My position on this has not changed. Treatment trials have done nothing to provide evidence of persistence of Borrelia burgdorferi one way or the other.
  • I strongly agree we need more basic biology research. The anonymous author's comments on the role the immune system plays in infection are noteworthy. But we also need to know what is going on if the infection does persist in some form. Is there a persister phenotype? Ongoing research into persister phenotypes should not be neglected. But I wouldn't leave all research at that, because there are other hypotheses to consider.
  • One thing I wonder about is the issue of quorum sensing and efficiency sensing, and if blebs or vesicles play any role in the dissemination and pathogenesis of Borrelia burgdorferi. Blebs as a form of communication are observed in other bacterial species, and perhaps Bb uses blebs and vesicles in a different manner and they are not part of cells undergoing apoptosis. Plasmid DNA and outer surface lipoproteins have been found within blebs; there is some suggestion of blebs containing adhesins... I think there's more to blebs than meets the eye.
  • Anonymous said, "There is a difference between what patients use to get well right now --the ax in the form of huge quantities of endless suppressive antibiotics-- and what they should want for the future --the chisel, which could well be an immune correction that allows infection finally to be resolved. There should be a divide between the effort to protect a Lyme doc in the here and now and the direction of research for the future --but it is hard for a lot of people to understand this." I keep reflecting on what they wrote, and its implications. Is there a more targeted approach which could be designed to help treat patients?" I think they are right - there is no reason why patients cannot ask for protection for the treatment they are receiving now while promoting research on new and different treatments. I think VGV-L is one effort in this direction, but I am not sure it will work. There is a lot of complexity involved.
  • Last but not least, my anonymous commenter said this: "The amazing thing is that the IDSA crew has gotten away with such a grotesquely oversimplified story of this disease for so long --and that to explain it, they perpetuate the explanation that it is a psychosis instead of a complex spectrum of infection and immune response. But by giving an oversimplified rejoinder, patients have hurt their cause, too." 

I think there's a lot of truth in that last statement. Now, what does one do about it?


  1. CO, it is encouraging to read blog posts like these from ononx, and of course yours, because I get a sense that some really intelligent people are not giving up on the chronic Lyme's infected people, and eventually something good will come of it.

    I just read an article in the Guardian about drug resistant gonorrhea and could not help but see there are similarities to the tick born bacteria. Not in the physical characteristics like the syphilis spirochete, but more the behavioral fight and flight survival aspects of this new drug resistant gonorrhea. It will be interesting to see how the CDC and IDSA handle this potential epidemic. It might start between the sheets, but it will be hard to hide under a rug, so you can bet plenty out-of-the-box ideas like Anonx proposes will be coming from a stampede of super hero researchers. Or maybe not: "Scientists reported last year finding a "superbug" strain of gonorrhoea in Japan in 2008 that was resistant to all recommended antibiotics and warned then that it could transform a once easily treatable infection into a global health threat." Really? It took three years for the scientists to report what was found in 2008? Were they afraid panic would speed up the spread of this nasty bug? There are other interesting quotes from the article:
    "The organism is what we term a superbug – it has developed resistance to virtually every class of antibiotics that exists,"

    The emergence of drug-resistant or superbug strains of gonorrhoea is caused by unregulated access to and overuse of antibiotics, which helps fuel natural genetic mutations within the bacteria.

    "So the organism has re-adjusted itself to provide fewer symptoms so that it can survive longer. It's an amazing interaction between man and pathogen."

    And last but not least from the article;

    Experts say the best way to reduce the risk of even greater resistance developing – beyond the urgent need to develop effective new drugs – is to treat gonorrhoea with combinations of two or more types of antibiotic at the same time. This technique is used in the treatment of some other infections such as tuberculosis in an attempt to make it more difficult for the bacteria to develop resistance to the drugs.

    The cause of the drug-resistant bug is too much antibiotic use, but the cure is to double up on the antibiotics. It must be Lyme induced confusion on my part, or as Anonx points out, a IDSA crew diagnosed psychosis. Either way I hope they don't burden the gonorrhea victims to find the cure or prove a certain treatment works.

  2. Hi Just Koz,

    I've been taking a break from being online lately - thus the slowdown in posting. But I will respond to your comment.

    I keep looking at all these reports of superbugs and think that not only should new antibiotic drug development have taken place long ago, when it was known these bugs were going to be an issue - but phage therapy research as well. The viruses used in phage therapy evolve as the bacteria mutates, so it can skirt the issue of resistance.

    The trouble with our complex nemesis, Borrelia, is that it isn't entirely clear what its method of persistence is. Embers et al hypothesize that Bb has a persister phenotype - if so, then more antibiotics are the clumsy ax and not the targeted treatment which would need to be developed to treat this.

    Combination antibiotics are, of course, worth studying and trying - and many patients are and have been willing to give them a try.

    When the warning goes out that patients must be aware about the risk of antibiotic resistance if one is using long term antibiotics to treat Lyme disease, I don't always think that this has been fully explained...It isn't necessarily that Borrelia has been shown to be resistant to antibiotics used to treat it. Very little resistance has been shown in this way. The issue is growing resistance for other bacteria for which the same antibiotics are used to treat. For example, MARCONS - coagulase negative staph infections which some Lyme disease patients are developing in their sinuses and ears. While MARCONS has been a term attributed to Dr. Shoemaker and his anti-mold protocol, it is also a term used in a wider context.

    Also, if you as a patient have to stop any antibiotic due to allergy or to adverse side effects - and start up antibiotics again after a truncated course or staggered doses - that can contribute to the resistance problem.

    As patients, I think better drug treatments must be found which avoid the problem of resistance.


You can use <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="url">link</a> for links.

The Camp Other Song Of The Month

Why is this posted? Just for fun!

Get this widget

Lyme Disease




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...