FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Clinicians, Researchers Gather in Boston to Discuss Science of Lyme Disease — Conference Unites Lyme Disease Research Community
Boston, MA — A national scientific conference entitled “Lyme Borreliosis and Tick-Borne Illnesses: Diagnostics, Emerging Pathogens and Avenues for New Research,” brought a broad range of researchers and clinicians to Boston November 8 and 9 to discuss tick-borne diseases, share emerging ideas and knowledge, and assess the most promising avenues for research into the future. Held at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), the conference drew more than 200 people from across the country and around the world intent on collaborating through the power of science to find answers to some of the most complex and often-misunderstood diseases. The two-day forum, to which the Bay Area Lyme Foundation provided an unrestricted educational grant, also featured the presentation of awards recognizing several scientists for their contributions to the understanding and treatment of Lyme disease.
An increasingly common disorder in the Northeast and North Central United States, Lyme disease is a potentially debilitating infection caused by bacteria transmitted to people and pets through the bite of an infected. If caught early, most cases of Lyme disease can be treated effectively, but it may be misdiagnosed because of a lack of awareness and unreliable diagnostic tests. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease occur each year.
“Collaboration is key to conquering Lyme disease because there are still so many unexplained facets of the condition,” said Carin Rollins, Board of Directors, Bay Area Lyme Foundation. “The only way we will truly understand this potentially debilitating disease is to harness the collective brain power and energies of all groups involved in this international effort to promote innovative scientific discoveries. This meeting offered a great opportunity to engage in that dialogue.”
Two renowned Lyme disease experts, Allen Steere, MD, director of Translational Research in Rheumatology at MGH – who identified Lyme disease in 1977 – and Paul Mead, MD, MPH, chief of epidemiology and surveillance for the CDC’s Lyme disease program, each led initial plenary sessions, highlighting the current status of Lyme disease in the United States and underscoring the great need for research to help those patients who contract the disease as well as to prevent the disease from ever occurring. In addition, dozens of presenters and attendees, representing academia, industry and government, discussed such wide-ranging topics as disease mechanisms, recent clinical data, prevention strategies, the future of laboratory diagnostics and vaccines, avenues for new research, evolving ecology, differences in the disease between Europe and the United States, and emerging pathogens.
“This conference brought together a wide range of individuals, with differing backgrounds and areas of expertise, providing a unique opportunity to unite all in a quest for facts and data, and ignited scientific exchange that will prove powerful going forward,” said Elizabeth Lewandrowski, PhD, assistant in chemistry at the MGH.
“Many aspects of Lyme disease are still not well understood, and a number of theories have been proposed to explain these clinical phenomena,” said Kent Lewandrowski, MD, associate chief for Laboratory and Molecular Medicine at MGH. “It’s been 30 years since Lyme disease was discovered, and it was refreshing to see the community come together like this.”
At the conference, Steere was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the discovery of Lyme disease and his ongoing research efforts to further
understand this illness. The Distinguished Research Award was presented to Charles Chiu, MD, PhD, assistant professor, Laboratory Medicine and Medicine, Infectious Diseases, University of California, San Francisco, who is developing the TickChip to detect the RNA of Lyme bacteria and other tick-borne pathogens.
“It is critical that we rally to promote more research so we find improved diagnostic tests and effective treatments for all patients with Lyme disease and tick-borne illnesses,” said John Aucott, MD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “The vibe of the conference was one of hope and collaboration, and offered great optimism for better understanding this condition in the coming months and years.”
About Bay Area Lyme Foundation
Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a national nonprofit organization committed to making Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure, is the a leading sponsor of innovative Lyme disease research in the US. A national 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Silicon Valley, the Foundation 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. For more information about Lyme disease or to get involved, visit www.bayarealyme.org or call us at 650-530-2439.