Young Hearts, Hidden Battles: A pediatric infectious disease physician’s perspective on Lyme disease and neuropsychiatric manifestations

Charlotte Mao, MD MPH

Distinguished Speaker Series Transcript

 

“Everything about this disease is infinitely more complex and nuanced than is taught to physicians.”

– Charlotte Mao, MD MPH

Charlotte Mao, MD MPHCharlotte Mao: Thank you Dana for that amazing introduction and Brandi too. I want to thank Brandi for so generously opening up your beautiful home for this event and Bay Area Lyme Foundation for inviting me to speak tonight about my personal perspectives as a pediatric infectious disease physician about Lyme disease in children, particularly neuropsychiatric manifestations. 

When Brandi asked if I might give a talk for this Speaker Series, I suggested this topic because, first, I hope there might be something instructive in some of my personal musings on key lessons I’ve learned about Lyme disease in the course of caring for children with this contested disease. Second, I want to highlight neuropsychiatric manifestations because I feel they generally are the least recognized by physicians as being potential manifestations of Lyme disease. Yet, taking into account all levels of severity, they are, in my view, actually quite common—certainly not uncommon—and when severe, they are among the most devastating of Lyme manifestations to the lives of children and their families.

New Discovery Identifies “Don’t Eat Me” Protein that Allows Lyme Bacteria to Evade Body’s Immune Response

New Discovery Identifies “Don’t Eat Me” Protein that Allows Lyme Bacteria to Evade Body’s Immune Response

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

New Discovery Identifies “Don’t Eat Me” Protein that Allows Lyme Bacteria to Evade Body’s Immune Response

Stanford University/MIT/UCSF study funded by Bay Area Lyme Foundation offers new direction for tick-borne disease research, paving the way for potential new discoveries   

Palo Alto, CA, May 7, 2024—Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the U.S., today announced a study finding a new mechanism of immune evasion used by Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. This study is the first to identify the specific Borrelia protein that acts as a “don’t eat me” signal to the body’s immune system in people with Lyme disease, offering insight into how the bacteria may persist in Lyme patients and introduces an entirely new research direction toward potential future treatments. The research was conducted at Stanford University and University of California San Francisco and funded in part by Bay Area Lyme Foundation. This groundbreaking data posted on bioRxiv on April 30, 2024, is expected to be published in a peer-review journal in the future.

“One of the big mysteries of Lyme disease has been how Borrelia is able to evade and survive the immune system – and this study helps answer that question. We’ve unlocked a critical door to understanding how this bacteria, and possibly other pathogens, manage to trick the immune system to evade clearance,” said lead author Michal Tal, PhD, principal scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Bay Area Lyme Foundation 2018 Emerging Leader Award winner who has received additional funding from the organization for this project.

In this study, researchers found that P66, a known Borrelia surface protein and one of the IgG Western Blot testing “bands” used for diagnosis, can inhibit an important portion of the immune response.

Keeping Frontline Workers Safe: New Program Will Educate Firefighters At Risk for Lyme Disease

Functional Medicine for First Responders

BAL Leading the Way Series

 

Dr Sunjya SchweigSunjya Schweig, MD, founder of the California Center for Functional Medicine, discusses a new program he is developing with funding from Bay Area Lyme to provide education and awareness about Lyme disease and the risks of tick-borne infections for firefighters. Firefighters have a profile of unique occupational exposures, including tick bites, and there is a significant lack of education on this topic. This new program aims to create professional, engaging videos featuring firefighters sharing their experiences and providing information on tick bite prevention, checking for ticks, and what to do if bitten. The goal is to roll out the program in California first, targeting professional firefighter and first responder organizations and eventually expanding nationwide. The exact number of firefighters living with Lyme disease is unknown, but it is acknowledged that they have both occupational and recreational exposures. This new program is seen as a way to bring awareness and education to this population and beyond.

“Lyme is not really on the radar for many firefighters. They may have had tick bites either in the line of duty or out mountain biking or hiking when they’re off duty, but many don’t know that tick-borne disease is a big problem.” 

– Sunjya Schweig, MD

New Study Reveals Potential Treatment for Neurologic Lyme Disease

Geetha Parthasarathy, PhD

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

 New Study Reveals Potential Treatment for Neurologic Lyme Disease

Blocking certain fibroblast growth factor receptors is shown to be effective in reducing inflammation and cell death caused by neurologic Lyme infection in laboratory studies

PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif. April 18, 2024—Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the US, recently announced the publication of a laboratory study showing that fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) inhibitors may be appropriate as an anti-inflammatory supplementary treatment for neurologic Lyme disease, for which there are no universally effective treatments. Published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Immunology, this study shows FGFRs are activated in response to both live and non-viable Lyme bacteria in preclinical brain tissue models. Further, inhibition of FGFR1, FGFR2, and FGFR3 may help mitigate the neuroinflammatory and neuropathogenic effects of infection by the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi.  

“Our research shows a potential connection between neurological Lyme disease and several other neurological conditions, and this common pathway may explain why Lyme can be confused with many other conditions. Increasing our knowledge of FGFRs and their effect on the brain will help us understand the common mechanisms that may underlie Lyme disease and other neurological diseases,” said Geetha Parthasarathy, PhD, assistant professor at Tulane National Primate Research Center, Tulane School of Medicine, and a Bay Area Lyme Foundation 2019 Emerging Leader Award winner. “This data shows that FGFRs can be novel targets of anti-inflammatory therapeutics in Lyme patients with persistent neuroinflammation.”

“Our findings from this and our previous studies also offer important insight that may help to explain why some patients still experience chronic neurological symptoms even after a short course of antibiotics,” added Dr. Parthasarathy.

If Pain Had a Sound: The Hunt for Relief is Riddled with Hope and Madness

Katie Liljedahl's Lyme story

Written by: Katie Liljedahl, Lyme patient

BAL Spotlights Series

 

Katie’s journey with Lyme disease, as recounted three years ago, highlights the ongoing challenges faced by those affected by this debilitating illness. Despite her perseverance and a wonderful support system, Katie continues to grapple with intermittent flares. However, amidst these struggles, Katie has found a new home and a new love, demonstrating resilience in the face of adversity. Her story serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need to improve Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment, ensuring that others do not endure similar hardships. By amplifying voices like Katie’s, we strive together towards a future where Lyme disease is easy to diagnose and simple to cure, allowing individuals to reclaim their lives and pursue their passions without the burden of infection-associated chronic illness. 

Spine strangled, muscles on fire, bones buzzing
I will migrate within you
I am relentless
My address is your body
This is the kind of pain that rages silently in
the caverns of marrow and suffocates hope.
It gyrates and bangs clamors and rattles
A parasite upon the soul~
it drowns out the voice of God.

– Katie’s journal; August 16, 2012

Ticktective with Dana Parish: Long Covid: What We Have Learned About Chronic Illness from the Front Lines

Ticktective™ with Dana Parish

David Putrino, PhD

David Putrino is a physical therapist with a PhD in Neuroscience. He is currently the Director of Rehabilitation Innovation for the Mount Sinai Health System, and a Professor of Rehabilitation and Human Performance at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He develops innovative rehabilitation solutions for adults and children in need of better healthcare accessibility, and in 2019, he was named “Global Australian of the Year” for his contributions to healthcare. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, David has been recognized globally as a leading expert in the assessment, treatment, and underlying physiology of Long COVID. His team has managed the care of over 3000 people with Long COVID and published multiple peer-reviewed scientific papers on the topic.

Lyme Patient, Shellie Krick, Discusses a Better, Calmer Way to Get Through the Day

Shellie Krick Blog

BAL Spotlights Series

In her book, The Art of Living With Chronic Illness, Pain, and Disability: A Practical and Spiritual Approach Inspired by the 12-Step Recovery Model, author, and former social worker Shellie Krick, explores how she used the 12-step Al-Anon program as a template to cope with her Lyme disease. Shellie has experienced over 30 years of chronic health problems stemming from Lyme and Bartonella infections, misdiagnosis, and dangerous, unproven treatments—some of which caused serious harm. Her book stems from her personal journey, offering a step-by-step guide to developing a different way of handling daily life with a chronic illness or chronic pain.

 “I definitely wasn’t the type of person who liked sitting around doing nothing—Lyme has been really hard on me in that way. But through my book, if I can help just one person cope with their situation better, then I will feel I have accomplished a lot.”

– Shellie Krick

Ticktective with Dana Parish: Mother’s Against Lyme: Congenital Lyme disease

Ticktective™ with Dana Parish

Isabel Rose

Isabel Rose is a writer, performer and activist. She has addressed audiences large and small urging understanding of, and support for, both congenital Lyme disease and rights for transgender children and their families. Rose is working on a memoir chronicling her lifelong battle against Lyme disease which she passed along, in utero, to both her children. Isabel is on the executive board of Project Lyme and co-chair of Mothers Against Lyme. She leads a bi-monthly support group for women coping with Lyme disease and its impact on their lives and on the lives of their children.

To read the podcast transcript, click here.

Dana Parish’s Personal Odyssey: Her Quest for the Right Diagnosis and Treatment of Lyme Disease 

BAL Spotlights Series

 

Dana Parish
Dana at The Voice where she performed her song “Broken Ones”

Dana Parish is a singer/songwriter based in New York City, signed with SonyATV. She is renowned for her captivating vocals and emotionally charged performances. Her debut single, ‘Not My Problem,’ from her album Uncrushed, reached the #23 spot on the Billboard charts, establishing her as one of the highest-charting independent artists in history.  She notably contributed two songs, ‘Thankful’ and ‘Always be Your Girl,’ to Celine Dion’s album Loved Me Back to Life. Additionally, her song ‘Someday I’ll Fly’ by G.E.M. became a #1 hit in China. Another one of her compositions, ‘Broken Ones,’ performed by Jacquie Lee, a finalist on Season 5 of The Voice, achieved chart success. A fearless advocate for the Lyme community, Dana champions the cause of individuals suffering from Lyme and tick-borne diseases. In May 2016, she delivered a heartfelt performance of ‘Pull You Through’ at LymeAid, Bay Area Lyme’s annual fundraising event, contributing to raising more than $815,000 for Lyme disease research. In 2021, she co-authored Chronic: The Hidden Cause of the Autoimmune Pandemic and How to Get Healthy Again with Steven Phillips, MD. Dana hosts the Ticktective podcast and video series for Bay Area Lyme Foundation and is a member of our advisory board.

In this interview, Dana Parish discusses her life before being diagnosed with Lyme disease and the challenges she faced in getting accurate diagnosis and correct treatment. She talks about her career in the music industry before she was bitten by a tick. Dana shares her experience with being misdiagnosed and the physical and mental symptoms she experienced. She also discusses the importance of raising awareness about Lyme disease and advocating for better treatment options.  Dana also touches on the similarities between persistent Lyme disease and Long Covid and the potential for overlap in research and treatment. She emphasizes the importance of being your own advocate and demanding proper treatment. Finally, Dana shares her thoughts on the current protocol for treating tick bites and the need for aggressive and early treatment.

Combination Antibiotic Therapies May Be Capable of Eradicating Lyme Disease, According to Investigational Study Funded by Bay Area Lyme Foundation

Monica E. Embers, PhD

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Combination Antibiotic Therapies May Be Capable of Eradicating Lyme Disease, According to Investigational Study Funded by Bay Area Lyme Foundation

 Study identifies persistent Lyme bacteria in tissue samples and points to need for clinical studies of combination antibiotics in persistent Lyme

PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif., November 21, 2023—Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading public foundation sponsor of Lyme disease research in the US, today announced results of a laboratory study published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Microbiology that identifies seven combination therapies that are superior to courses of single antibiotics for treating persistent Lyme disease in an investigational model. These combination therapies were able to eradicate the bacteria from tissue samples, and the study was conducted by Bay Area Lyme Foundation Scientific Advisory Board member Monica Embers Ph.D., along with other researchers from Tulane University.

“Our results support the experience of Lyme disease patients whose symptoms have not resolved after a standard course of antibiotics, and these new data suggest that combination therapy should be investigated in clinical studies for treating persistent human Lyme disease,” said Embers, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology and director of Vector-borne Disease Research at Tulane National Primate Research Center.

While none of the single courses of antibiotics eliminated persistent infection in this investigational study, some combinations of already FDA-approved antimicrobial treatments were able to eradicate the bacteria. Specifically, four different dual combinations of antibiotics (doxycycline and ceftriaxone; dapsone and rifampicin; dapsone and clofazimine; doxycycline and cefotaxime) and three triple combinations of antibiotics and antimicrobials (doxycycline, ceftriaxone and carbomycin; doxycycline, cefotaxime and loratadine; dapsone, rifampicin and clofazimine) eradicated persistent infections of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.