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Bay Area Lyme Foundation Sponsors Massachusetts General Hospital Forum to Address Challenges of Lyme Disease

Researchers consider issues of persistence, and cardiac and neurological manifestations of Lyme disease, as well as the challenges of other emerging tick-borne diseases

Boston, MA, June 13, 2016 – Massachusetts General Hospital convened a national scientific conference, “Lyme Disease and Tick-Borne Illnesses: Diagnostics, Emerging Pathogens and Avenues for New Research,” was convened at Massachusetts General Hospital to educate and inspire collaboration toward a greater understanding of the of tick-borne diseases and how research should be focused. This conference, which was attended by academia, industry, and government, was supported by Bay Area Lyme Foundation. Lyme disease infects more than 329,000 people each year in the U.S., and there is currently no sufficiently reliable Lyme diagnostic test and there is no universally effective treatment for post-treatment Lyme disease.

“Our hope is that the collaborations ignited at this program will propel us forward toward making Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure,” said conference co-director Kent Lewandrowski, MD, pathologist, Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of pathology, Harvard Medical School.

The two-day program opened with course director Elizabeth Lewandrowski, PhD, MPH, Research Faculty at Massachusetts General Hospital relating her own story of having had neuro-Lyme disease. Her personal struggle set the stage for the conference speakers emphasizing that Lyme disease can be complex and may cause significant morbidity in some patients.

Adriana Marques, MD of the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, indicated specific areas that need more research funding, including diagnostics for Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections, new techniques for discovering unknown tick-borne diseases, clinical studies, data management and specimen repository.

“Collaboration is critical to our efforts to efficiently use current funding to develop sensitive diagnostics and reliable therapeutics,” said Wendy Adams, Bay Area Lyme Foundation, who also presented at the conference. “The more we can encourage collaboration among researchers, the more quickly we can succeed in identifying ways to best diagnose and treat tick-borne diseases.”

The conference highlighted recent research advances and underscored the need for funding for Lyme disease.  The topics addressed at the meeting included:

  • Challenges of diagnostics at different stages – William Robinson, MD, PhD, Stanford University and Bay Area Lyme Foundation scientific advisor outlined the need for effective diagnostic tools for every stage of the disease, while John Branda, MD, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, and recipient of the Emerging Leader Award grant from Bay Area Lyme Foundation, shared data regarding the inconsistent reliability of current tests.
  • Cardiac, neurological and pediatric concerns related to Lyme disease – Brian Fallon, MD, Columbia University discussed the neuropsychiatric manifestations of Lyme disease.  Cardiologist David Dudzinksi, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital shared a recent realization that young people who have been dying from heart conditions may have undiagnosed Lyme disease while Duke University oncologist Neil Spector, MD, Bay Area Lyme Foundation scientific advisor shared his personal story of requiring a heart transplant due to Lyme disease.
  • Tick-borne diseases beyond Lyme disease – Alan Barbour, MD, University of California, Irvine, offered the plenary session regarding the increasing number of tickborne diseases and Peter Krause, MD, Yale University School of Public Health offered additional data on the ability of various types of ticks to transmit diseases.  Importantly, each shared important facts about the growth of Lyme and other tickborne diseases in California.

In addition to researchers and administrators from Massachusetts General Hospital, clinicians from Partners Healthcare, and Scientific Advisory Board members and executives of Bay Area Lyme Foundation, attendees included representatives from: Mayo Clinic, National Institutes of Health, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Stanford School of Medicine; Yale University School of Public Health; Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; Tufts Medical Center; Columbia University Medical Center; Northeastern University, and other academic medical centers.

About Lyme disease

One of the fastest growing vector-borne infectious diseases in the United States, Lyme disease is a potentially debilitating infection caused by bacteria transmitted through the bite of an infected tick to people and pets. If caught early, most cases of Lyme disease can be effectively treated, but it is commonly misdiagnosed due to lack of awareness and unreliable diagnostic tests. There are approximately 329,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year, according to statistics released in 2015 by the CDC. As a result of the difficulty in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, as many as one million Americans may be suffering from the impact of its debilitating long-term symptoms and complications, according to Bay Area Lyme Foundation estimates.

About Bay Area Lyme Foundation

Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a national organization committed to making Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure, is the leading public not-for-profit sponsor of innovative Lyme disease research in the US.  A 501c3 non-profit organization based in Silicon Valley, Bay Area Lyme collaborates with world-class scientists and institutions to accelerate medical breakthroughs for Lyme disease. It is also dedicated to providing reliable, fact-based information so that prevention and the importance of early treatment are common knowledge.  A pivotal donation from The Laurel Foundation covers all overhead costs and allows for 100% of all donor contributions to Bay Area Lyme Foundation to go directly to research and prevention programs. For more information about Lyme disease or to get involved, visit or call us at 650-530-2439.

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