New Study Shows Lyme Disease Can Be Found In City Parks

•October 13, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Excerpted from CBS  Pittsburgh : (10/03/2019)

“We found about 50 percent of the adults infected and around 20 percent of the nymphs,” Simmons said. “So that would be an area that’s highly endemic of Lyme disease.”

Not much is known about ticks in urban settings.

“Nobody’s done work on insular parks that are surrounded by populated areas, right in the heart of cities,” said Tom Simmons, tick researcher at IUP.

Every year, more than 6 million people use Pittsburgh’s parks.

Researchers at IUP looked at the issue in a systematic way, dragging a 1-square-meter cloth on randomly determined 10-square-meter sections of parks, collecting ticks.

They found lots of black-legged ticks, also called deer ticks, which transmit the spiral-shaped Lyme disease bacteria.

For every 100 square meters, one adult rick and three nymphs — the less mature form of ticks — were found.

For  video and more: https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2019/10/03/ticks-in-pittsburgh-parks/

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Lyme disease: The paramedic took one look and said, ‘You need a doctor now’

•September 22, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Excerpted from The Irish Times: (09/17/2019)

There is no way of definitively checking you have it, no way of definitively checking if you have rid yourself of it, huge disagreement over how many people have it, and no known treatment once it gets to a certain stage.

Lyme disease – the various grisly strains of the Borrelia bacterium that live in the guts of some ticks – is just the gift that keeps on giving.

I picked it up in a field in July.

At some point, I’m hoping to put it back down again.

There were warnings in the compost toilets, to be fair. No morning’s trudge across the campsite to the elegant wooden boxes for the dawn ablutions was complete without a glance at the warnings about miniature arachnids carrying the northern hemisphere’s very own climate change-induced tropical disease.

Like a lot of people, I just assumed I’d be grand. After a laptop-heavy June, I turned up for some voluntary physical work in England’s west country thinking only of losing a bit of early-30s padding and enjoying spending time with friends.

The first week I was riddled with bites.

That’s nothing new. Various flying invertebrates seem to regard my arrival as a school of sharks might greet the floating carcass of a sperm whale. In the folk tales of some mosquito cultures, I am fondly associated with times of plenty. And by and large, I’m happy to offer up a blood sacrifice now and then to assuage the insect masses, itching and scratching as I go.

This time was no different, with a creative menagerie of bites nestling between the scratches, bruises and cuts sustained in shifting firewood, pallets and intermediate bulk containers.

After breakfast one morning – aha! – I spotted two ticks, about the size of a sesame seed, and had them removed expertly by a first-aider, using a tweezers and a twisting technique.

Job done, you’d think.

The next morning, I sought some cream for my other bites, including one which had begun to annex the greater part of my thigh.

Kirsty, a paramedic on site, took one look at that bite – and two others on my ankles – and identified the telltale signs of Lyme disease: a red bite-mark, surrounded by a pale circle, surrounded in turn by another red circle. It’s like a second World War RAF roundel in miniature.

It explained, she said, why my muscles had ached in an unearthly manner for two days. I just thought it was the result of some uncharacteristic manual labour. “You need to see a doctor now,” she added.

The only problem is that it’s Saturday. A call to 111 and two hours later, and I’ve cadged a lift into town from a generous friend. Her sister apparently got Lyme disease but was only given 10 days’ worth of antibiotics, and it developed into a persistent condition – chronic Lyme disease.

For more: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/lyme-disease-the-paramedic-took-one-look-and-said-you-need-a-doctor-now-1.4008878

Bill calls for DNR to sell bug spray to prevent Lyme disease

•August 18, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Minnesota-Annandale-Sunset-on-Clearwater-Lake-1440x954Excerpted from The Star Tribune: (08/15/2019)

MADISON, Wis. — Griffin Austin was an 11-year-old kid two years ago, spending his days outside playing second base, shooting hoops and fishing. Then he started noticing he couldn’t keep up with his friends. He kept feeling tired until one day after basketball practice he couldn’t walk.

The Verona boy grew weaker and weaker, resorting to an electric scooter to get around, quitting basketball and withdrawing from school. His parents depleted their savings account as doctors tried to figure out what was wrong. Finally this past April he was diagnosed with Lyme disease.

“I missed out on two years of my life,” Griffin, now 13, told the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Environment on Thursday.

A group of lawmakers is trying to prevent stories like Griffin’s with a new package of bills designed to combat Lyme disease. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash. Left untreated, the disease can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The tick-borne ailment has always lurked in the background in wooded northern Wisconsin, but now it’s on the rise across the rest of the state. The state Department of Natural Resources theorizes that ticks are multiplying faster than their natural predators.

The average number of Lyme disease cases in Wisconsin has more than doubled over the last decade, according to health officials. Wisconsin had the fourth-highest number of confirmed Lyme disease cases among all 50 states in 2017 at 1,794 incidents, according to the latest CDC data. The number of cases reported last year was 3,105, according to the state Department of Health Services.

Reps. Jeff Mursau and Nick Milroy along with Sen. Robert Cowles have proposed measures that would require the Department of Natural Resources to sell insect repellent at every state park and forest as well as post signs warning about the dangers of Lyme disease on state lands.

According to a department fiscal estimate attached to the repellent bill, only five out of 64 state parks and forests offer anything for sale to the public. Building a system to sell repellent at the remaining 59 properties would cost about $15,000. Agency officials estimate they would have to spend $20,000 annually on repellent, but they expect sales revenue will cover those costs.

The sign bill would require the department to post at least one warning of Lyme disease in every state park, trail, recreational area and forest. The measure would allocate $12,500 for the signs.

The Assembly Environment Committee held a public hearing on both bills Thursday. Griffin’s parents, Lexy and Russ Austin, brought him to the proceeding in a wheelchair. As he waited his turn to speak, he grew so tired he had to rest his upper body on his father’s lap.

“I’m truly grateful this legislation will bring much needed awareness,” he told the panel. “Much more needs to be done.”

Committee members seemed genuinely moved. The committee’s chairman, Republican Rep. Joel Kitchens, said the panel will likely vote on the bills next month. Rep. Scott Krug responded by sharing that his daughter was diagnosed with Lyme disease two years ago as well.

“Mom and Dad, I know where you’re coming from,” he told Lexy and Russ Austin.

Mursau, Cowles and Milroy have introduced three other bills designed to combat Lyme disease. Those bills would create a committee to study tick-borne diseases, require the Department of Natural Resources to include information on Lyme disease in state park brochures, run an annual Lyme disease public awareness campaign and allocate $91,400 for Department of Health Services to hire an expert on insect-borne diseases. Those bills haven’t gotten a hearing yet.

For more: http://www.startribune.com/panel-to-consider-making-dnr-sell-bug-spray-in-state-parks/544451582/

UK Lyme disease cases may be three times higher than estimated

•August 3, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Excerpted from The Guardian: (07/30/2019)

Cases of Lyme disease in the UK may be three times higher than previous estimates, according to new research.

After analysing the anonymous medical records of 8.4 million people from across the UK, scientists forecast that the total number of Lyme disease diagnoses in the UK could top 8,000 in 2019, compared with previous estimates of between 2,000 and 3,000 annual diagnoses.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, which is passed on through being bitten by an infected tick. The small spider-like creatures feed off the blood of animals and are typically found in dense, moist vegetation.

Related: Lyme disease: is a solution on the way?

Lyme disease has many symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose. Early symptoms can be similar to those of flu, and about a quarter of cases will develop a circular red rash around the bite. Full clinical diagnosis requires a blood test, but the study found that more than half of patients in 2012, the most recent year with complete data, were treated with only “suspected” or “possible” Lyme disease.

If caught early, most cases can be successfully treated with antibiotics within four weeks, but the infection can lead to permanent damage to the joints and nervous system.

The research, published in the journal BMJ Open, found that half of cases occurred between June and August. Although there were diagnoses across all regions of the UK during the period studied, Scotland had the highest number of cases, at 27% of the total. The authors suggest this could be due to the region’s wetter climate and popularity with hikers. The south-west and south of England also recorded a higher than average number of cases.

The data showed that the number of diagnoses increased almost tenfold over the period studied. This, the researchers said, was partly down to increased caution by GPs and greater public awareness.

“The exact number isn’t so important,” said Dr Victoria Cairns, the lead author of the study. “The point is that it’s a lot, and it’s everywhere, and that’s why people should be informed.”

Dr Anne Cruikshank, the Royal College of GPs’ clinical champion for Lyme disease, said: “These levels are not a big surprise to those of us who know about Lyme disease. I expect the 8,000 figure may be an underestimate, since the data shows that positive lab results have doubled every five years.”

Related: What’s really behind the spread of Lyme disease? Clue: it’s not the Pentagon | Peter Beaumont

Dr Jack Lambert, a professor of medicine at the Mater hospital in Dublin, agreed. “I think this is the tip of the iceberg, but this paper is a good step.”

For more: https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/uk-lyme-disease-cases-may-be-three-times-higher-than-estimated/ar-AAF71ur

New approaches may help solve the Lyme disease diagnosis dilemma

•June 30, 2019 • Leave a Comment

 

Excerpted from ScienceNews: (0i6/23/2019)

Unable to look for the bacteria directly, at least for now, diagnosis depends on deciphering clues from the body’s immune response. The standard test has two steps. The first looks for antibodies that respond to Lyme-causing bacteria. The second, called a Western blot, validates the diagnosis by confirming the presence of other antibody proteins that are more specific for Lyme. (The two steps are used together to reduce the odds of a false-positive test.)

In 2005, Rachel Straub was a college student returning home from a three-week medical service mission in Central America. Soon after, she suffered a brutal case of the flu. Or so she thought.

“We were staying in orphanages,” she says of her trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. “There were bugs everywhere. I remember going to the bathroom and the sinks would be solid bugs.” She plucked at least half a dozen ticks off her body.

Back in Straub’s hometown of San Diego, fevers and achiness tormented her for a couple of weeks. Her doctor suspected Lyme disease, which is spread by ticks, but a test came back negative, and at the time, the infection was almost unheard of in Latin America.

For years, Straub struggled off and on with crushing fatigue and immune problems. She forged on with her studies. Dedicated to physical fitness, she started writing a book about weight training. But in late 2012, she could no longer push through her exhaustion.

“My health was shattering,” she says. By January 2013, she could hardly get out of bed and had to move back in with her parents. She describes a merry-go-round of physicians offering varying explanations: chronic fatigue syndrome, mononucleosis. She never got a definitive diagnosis, but a rheumatologist with expertise in immunology finally prescribed powerful antibiotics.

Almost immediately, Straub broke out in chills and other flulike symptoms, and her blood pressure plummeted, problems that sometimes arise when pathogens begin a massive die-off inside the body. She began to feel better, but slowly. Over the next four years, she could barely leave her house.

Stories like Straub’s are what make Lyme disease one of the most charged and controversial of all infections. It’s not hard to find tick-bitten patients who live for years with undiagnosed and unexplained symptoms that defy repeated treatment attempts.

Patient advocates point to people who agonize for years, drifting from doctor to doctor in search of relief. Battles with insurers who won’t pay for therapy without a definitive diagnosis have played out in courthouses and statehouses. Desperate patients sometimes turn to solutions that may pose their own risks. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently described people who had developed serious complications, or even died, after unproven treatments for Lyme disease.

Many, if not most, of these problems are caused by the lack of a reliable test for the infection. “This deficiency in Lyme disease diagnosis is probably the most prevalent thing that is responsible for the controversies of this disease,” says Paul Arnaboldi, an immunologist at New York Medical College in Valhalla.

That’s why Arnaboldi and other researchers are trying to devise better diagnostics (SN: 9/16/17, p. 8). The standard two-part test that’s used now, which has changed little in concept since the 1990s, may miss about half of infected people in the early weeks of illness. The test relies on finding markers that show the immune system is actively engaged. For some people, it takes up to six weeks for those signs to reach detectable levels.

To find better ways to diagnose the disease more reliably and maybe sooner, scientists are trying to identify genetic changes that occur in the body even before the immune system rallies. Other researchers are measuring immune responses that may prove more accurate than existing tests.

The science has advanced enough, according to a review in the March 15 Clinical Infectious Diseases, that within the next few years, tests may finally be able to measure infections directly. The aim is to amplify traces of the Lyme bacteria’s genetic material in the bloodstream. Enough approaches are in various stages of research that some patient advocates have renewed optimism that the problems with testing may finally become a thing of the past.

Ticked off

In the United States, ticks pass about a dozen illnesses to people, but Lyme disease is the most common (SN: 8/19/17, p. 16). It’s most often caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which usually hitches a ride inside black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks. When a tick bites and latches on to a person, the bacteria enter the skin, often causing a distinct, circular bull’s-eye rash radiating from the bite. But about 20 to 30 percent of infected people never experience any kind of rash, and many of those who do simply never notice it.

About 30,000 infections are reported annually in the United States, but public health experts estimate that the true number is 10 times as high.

Once in the skin, the corkscrew-shaped bacteria travel into the bloodstream and then migrate into joints and connective tissues, sometimes reaching the heart and nervous system. The problem is that treatment with antibiotics is most successful when the infection is in its earliest stages — the exact time when the standard diagnostic test is least reliable.

Doctors have an easier time diagnosing other infections using a technique called polymerase chain reaction. PCR amplifies bits of the pathogen’s genetic material from a patient’s blood, making the infection easier to confirm. But PCR isn’t sensitive enough for many Lyme infections, says Jeannine Petersen, a microbiologist at the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases in Fort Collins, Colo. Lyme-causing bacteria congregate in very low numbers in blood samples, she says, which “makes it very hard to detect the organism itself using standard methods, such as PCR.”

For more: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/ticks-lyme-disease-testing-new-approaches

Lyme Disease Transmission: Can It Spread from Person to Person?

•June 16, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Excerpted from Healthline: (06/11/2019)

Can you catch Lyme disease from someone else? The short answer is no. There’s no direct evidence that Lyme disease is contagious. The exception is pregnant women, who can transmit it to their fetus.

Lyme disease is a systemic infection caused by spirochete bacteria transmitted by black-legged deer ticks. The corkscrew-shaped bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, are similar to the spirochete bacteria that cause syphilis.

Lyme disease can become debilitating for some people and life-threatening if it isn’t treated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source estimates that 300,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Lyme each year. But many cases may go unreported. Other studies suggest that the incidence of Lyme may be as high as 1 million cases per year.

Diagnosis is challenging because Lyme symptoms mimic those of many other diseases.

Historical facts about Lyme
Lyme takes its name from the Connecticut town where several children developed what looked like rheumatoid arthritis in the 1970s. The culprit was thought to be a tick bite.
In 1982, scientist Willy Burgdorfer identified the bacterial causeTrusted Source of the illness. The tick-borne bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, is named after him.
Lyme isn’t a new disease. Lyme-type spirochetes were found in the Tyrolean IcemanTrusted Source, a 5,300-year-old well-preserved body discovered in the Alps in 1991.
What’s the most common way to get Lyme?
Blacklegged deer ticks infected with Borrelia burgdorferi transmit the Lyme bacteria when they bite. The ticks, Ixodes scapularis (Ixodes pacificus on the West Coast), can also transmit other disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. These are called coinfections.

A tick requires a blood meal at each stage of its life — as larvae, nymphs, and adults. Ticks normally feed on animals, ground-feeding birds, or reptiles. Humans are a secondary blood source.tick

Most bites to humans are from tick nymphs, which are the size of poppy seeds. It’s hard to spot them, even on open skin. The prime seasons for human tick bites are late spring and summer.

As an infected tick feeds on you, it injects spirochetes into your blood. Animal researchTrusted Source has shown that the severity (virulence) of infection varies, depending on whether the spirochetes are from the tick’s salivary glands or the tick’s midgut. In this animal research, infection required 14 times more midgut spirochetes than saliva spirochetes.

Depending on the tick’s bacterial virulence, you could be infected with Lyme within 24 hoursTrusted Source of the tick bite.

Can you get Lyme from bodily fluids?
Lyme bacteria may be found in bodily fluids, such as:

saliva
urine
breast milk
But there’s no hard evidence that Lyme spreads from person to person via contact with bodily fluids. So don’t worry about kissing someone with Lyme.

Can you get Lyme from sexual transmission?
There’s no direct evidence that Lyme is sexually transmitted by humans. Lyme experts are divided about the possibility.

“The evidence for sexual transmission that I’ve seen is very weak and certainly not conclusive in any scientific sense,” Dr. Elizabeth Maloney told Healthline. Maloney is president of the Partnership for Tick-Borne Diseases Education.

Dr. Sam Donta, another Lyme researcher, agreed.

On the other hand, Lyme researcher Dr. Raphael Stricker told Healthline, “There’s no reason why the Lyme spirochete can’t be sexually transmitted by human beings. How commonly it occurs, or how difficult it is, we don’t know.”

Stricker has called for a “Manhattan Project” approach to Lyme, including more research.

Indirect studies of human transmission are suggestiveTrusted Source, but not definitive. A few animal studies of sexual transmission of the Lyme spirochete have shown that it does occur in some cases.

It’s not ethical to test sexual transmission by deliberately infecting humans, as was done with syphilis in the past. (The syphilis spirochete is transmitted sexually.)

A 2014 studyTrusted Source found live Lyme spirochetes in semen and vaginal secretions of people with documented Lyme. But this doesn’t necessarily mean there are enough spirochetes to spread infection.

Can you get Lyme from a blood transfusion?
There are no documented cases of Lyme transmission via a blood transfusion.

But the Lyme spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi has been isolated from human blood, and an older 1990 research studyTrusted Source found that Lyme spirochetes could survive the normal blood bank storage procedures. For this reason, the CDCTrusted Source recommends that people being treated for Lyme shouldn’t donate blood.

On the other hand, there have been more than 30 cases of transfusion-transmitted babesiosis, a parasite coinfection of the same black-legged tick that transmits Lyme.

Can Lyme be transmitted during pregnancy?
A pregnant woman with untreated Lyme can transmit the infectionTrusted Source to the fetus. But if they receive adequate treatment for Lyme, adverse effects are unlikely.

A 2009 studyTrusted Source of 66 pregnant women found that untreated women had a significantly higher risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes.

For more: https://www.healthline.com/health/is-lyme-disease-contagious

Antibody Shows Promise In Fight Against Lyme Disease, UMass Researcher Says

•May 5, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Excerpted from WBUR: (05/03/2019)

The state’s $1 million investment toward finding a way to prevent ticks from spreading Lyme disease is paying off, a UMass Medical School researcher said Thursday, and an additional investment could move an antibody proven in labs to protect mice against Lyme closer to a human trial.

As Lyme, a tick-borne bacterial infection that can cause neurological problems if left untreated, has spread in both the number of cases and affected geography, Dr. Mark Klempner from the MassBiologics division of UMass Medical School has been leading a team to develop “a novel approach” to preventing the disease.

“It’s really been a spreading, rising tide of cases that are concerning,” he said, noting that the 35,000 to 40,000 reported annual cases of Lyme disease in the United States is “very underreported” and is likely closer to 300,000 annual cases. Since the mid-1990s, he said, the ticks that can carry Lyme disease have increased in concentration and spread from New England and the mid-Atlantic to the upper Midwest.

Klempner’s team secured a $1 million appropriation in the current state budget and, paired with federal grants from the National Institutes of Health, developed a “pre-exposure prophylaxis” in which antibodies injected into a human could block the release of the Lyme bacteria if the human is bitten by an infected tick.

“It’s really based on some very simple notion that the bacteria, before it comes to you, is stuck in the gut of the tick” and must make a complex trip through the tick before it can infect a human, he said Thursday at a briefing. “Our approach is to take advantage of this very complicated pathway for the bacteria to get out of the tick and into you … a medicine that will circulate in you that when the tick drinks it, the blood will contain something that will kill the bacteria in the midgut or for sure prevent it from getting out of the gut so that none of this can happen.”

The team ran an initial test on mice in which the mice were injected with the antibodies and then exposed to six Lyme-infected ticks each. At a dose as low as 5 mg per 2.5 pounds of body weight, the mice were found to be 100% protected from Lyme disease, Klempner said. The team also tested the preventative treatment on a monkey and was able to protect the monkey from Lyme disease exposure.

The development hit a snag, Klempner said, when his team realized that a single injection of antibodies would not protect a human for the duration of tick season.

“Our problem is that we’ve invented a drug that will be there for only a few weeks and yet your time of risk of exposure is many months, typically we say seven to eight months in our area around here,” he said.

Researchers found a way to modify the antibody treatment and extend its usefulness by up to three-and-a-half times in mice, he said, but have not yet been able to test on humans to find out how long the antibodies would sustain in a human body.

For more: https://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2019/05/03/antibody-lyme-disease-mice-research