The Coming Pandemic of Lyme Dementia

Excerpted from Psychology Today :  (05/29/2017)

There are many known causes of dementia. One of these causes are bacteria. Bacteria are usually ignored despite its historical and current significance in dementia research.  A hundred years ago it was well known that syphilis—a bacterium—was the only known cause of dementia. The bacteria interferes with the nerves until it reaches the brain where it destroys the brain from the inside. In the end, the expression of long-term syphilis is dementia—Neurosyphilis. Alois Alzheimer wrote the textbook on neurosyphilis before his supervisor Emil Kraepelin propelled him into the history books by defining Alzheimer’s disease as a new disease in 1911. [1]

Neurosyphilis was very common in the 1900s. Between one in four to one in ten people in mental institutions were there because of neurosyphilis. Eventually syphilis kills its victims. Before the introduction of penicillin in 1943, syphilis was a common killer. In 1929, among men, the death rate from syphilis was 28.3 per 100,000 for Whites and 97.9 per 100,000 for Blacks [2]. The similarities between syphilis and dementia were addressed repeatedly in the early literature in Alzheimer’s disease [1]. Because syphilis can now be treated easily and cheaply, it has nearly been eradicated. But there is a new bacterium threat emerging—one that also causes dementia.

Today, the main bacterial threat to acquire dementia comes from Lyme disease—a bacterium borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. These ticks are themselves infected by feeding off diseased insects and birds, which bring the infection from across the globe. Worldwide there are 23 different species of these Lyme disease ticks.

Lyme disease is the most common disease transmitted by animals in the northern hemisphere and it is becoming an increasingly public health concern [3]. Not only because Lyme disease is a debilitating disease, but because eventually Lyme disease has been shown to cause dementia—Lyme dementia [4]. Science has not identified the mechanism for the development of Lyme dementia but more than 65 countries have the blacklegged ticks which transmit Lyme disease.

Ernie Murakami, a retired physician, has been monitoring the spread of Lyme disease in the north and south of the 49th parallel. The prevalence varies dramatically. Canada reporting the lowest cases in the world, with 1 case per million, while Slovenia reports 13 cases per 10,000. In the United Sates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 329,000 people are likely to be infected every year in the U.S. alone. Only one in ten cases are reported since clinicians are not looking for it. This estimated number of infections is higher than hepatitis C, HIV, colon cancer, and breast cancer. Lyme disease accounts for more than 90% of all reported cases of diseases transmitted by animals (vector-borne illness).

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~ by Rob on May 31, 2017.

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