In this article transcribed from our Distinguished Speaker Series webinar, Sunjya Schweig, MD, founder and CEO of the California Center for Functional Medicine and member of Bay Area Lyme’s Scientific Advisory Board, discusses how recovering from tick-borne illnesses can be aided through carefully devised combinations of conventional and functional medicine, tailored to the individual person. Nancy Chimsky, retired interior designer and Lyme patient, who has been challenged with tick-borne infections since 1997, shares her personal Lyme story in the first part of this webinar.
Dr. Schweig discussed the top four lifestyle areas critical to aiding recovery and explains how and why optimizing each area is key to treating and managing Lyme and tick-borne disease. The lifestyle areas are:
Diet and nutrition
Stress reduction and neuroplasticity
Dr. Schweig also discussed the important role that botanical and herbal medicines have in recovery. He discusses the individualized nature of treatment and testing for Lyme disease, including the use of various lab tests and the consideration of co-infections. Finally, Dr. Schweig emphasizes the importance of finding the right healthcare practitioner who can address the complexity of Lyme disease and provide appropriate treatment. The session concludes with a Q&A session about what people are doing to manage their health, and Dr. Schweig provided practical suggestions and concrete takeaways based on these questions from attendees.
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.
“I just took the position that these doctors were idiots, and they were wrong and that one day I would get better, and I would go on to do something with my knowledge—if I got to recover.”
Bay Area Lyme Foundation Now Accepting Applications for2024 Emerging Leader Award and Grant
Annual grant seeks to attract innovative researchers with a new approach for diagnosing and treating tick-borne diseases
PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif., October 26, 2023—Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the US, is announcing a call for entries for their 2024 Emerging Leader Awards (ELA), which aim to recognize U.S. researchers from academia or the private sector who bring new approaches to the field of Lyme disease and embody the future of Lyme disease research leadership. This year, the Foundation ELA will present a $150,000 award for a researcher who is at the post-doctoral level through associate professor level.
While applicants must have a defined scientific approach to advancing diagnostics and/or therapeutics for Lyme disease, the grants are open to researchers from other therapeutic areas as well as those who have previously worked in Lyme disease research. Applications will be accepted through March 1, 2024 at 11:59pm, Pacific Time. The full criteria and application for this award can be found here.
“The world is seeing firsthand the damage that infections can cause – both in acute and chronic forms –and Lyme is no exception. Even today, it presents a significant hurdle for the scientific research community,” said Wendy Adams, research grant director Bay Area Lyme Foundation. “We intend for our Emerging Leader Award to encourage creative, driven scientists to embrace the challenge of developing accurate diagnostic tests and effective therapeutics for various stages of tick-borne diseases.”
In this interview, author/filmmaker, Kris Newby, explains the murky history behind the US government’s involvement with Lyme disease and continued efforts to hide how the military’s bioweapons programs caused the spread of tick-borne pathogens. She explains how alliances between pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, university-based research teams, and the government led to inaccurate testing and denials of care, causing untold suffering to millions. Kris draws parallels between Long Covid and chronic Lyme and shines a light on how we are being dismissed, misinformed, and deliberately misled by the very institutions that should be protecting us.
Dana Parish: I’m so excited to welcome Kris Newby. Kris is an award-winning medical science writer and a senior producer of the Lyme documentary Under Our Skin, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was a 2010 Oscar Semifinalist. Her book Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons has won three international book awards. I loved your book so much for journalism and narrative nonfiction. Kris has two engineering degrees and has worked as a science technology writer for Stanford Medical School, Apple Computer, and other Silicon Valley companies. Welcome Kris!
Kris Newby: Thanks Dana, and thanks for having me on the podcast.
Dana Parish: I’m so excited because you are one of the greatest historians of Lyme and you were so helpful to Steve Phillips and me when we wrote our book, Chronic. We loved your book. And Under Our Skin is the film that informed my view of what was really happening with Lyme disease. You’ve been working on Lyme education for 20 years. You’ve done a film, you’ve written a great book, you’ve published articles, you’ve worked in nonprofits, and you recovered from your own tick-borne diseases. How big is the Lyme problem?
Kris Newby: Ginormous and growing. The CDC’s latest estimate is half a million new cases of Lyme disease a year, and I’m sure everyone remembers when Covid hit a half a million. It was like, “Oh no, we have a problem here.” But for some reason, Lyme disease hasn’t bubbled up as a problem. 500,000 cases a year is an average of 1,300 a day. And, obviously, that mostly happened in the summer, so it’s huge. I am often frustrated because I’ve been working in this field for 20 years and not much has gotten better. The disease—this tick-borne disease—if it’s caught early, it can be cured. But we have a test that isn’t reliable in the first month, and later on it’s no better than a coin flip. About 10-30% of the people who are treated with a recommended treatment—according to what study you read—go on to become chronically ill. And the establishment has invested very little in new treatment protocols. I did an analysis with another Bay Area Lyme person of the NIH grants for the last five years, and less than 1% of the Lyme disease NIH budget is spent on treatments.
In this interview, psychiatrist Dr. Robert Bransfield explains the links between neuropsychiatric disorders and infections. He recounts his successes treating patients who repeatedly fail to respond to conventional interventions. Dr. Bransfield describes how clinical diagnoses of infection, along with correct administration and interpretation of testing, plus treating patients with antibiotics can, in many cases, lead to an abatement of a variety of psychiatric disorders, from psychosis to depression and anxiety. He also explores the connection between tick-borne diseases in maternal-fetal transfer of infections and the rise in autism in children.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity. Bibliography and references are posted below.
“What are people in the future going to say about the Lyme crisis? I’m sure this will be judged by history as a great failure of our healthcare system, that we didn’t move quickly enough with this, and that people were holding back progress.”
—Dr. Robert Bransfield
Dana Parish: Hi, I am Dana Parish, and I am hosting the Ticktective podcast on behalf of Bay Area Lyme Foundation. I am here today with a wonderful psychiatrist, Dr. Robert C. Bransfield, MD, DLF APA. He is a graduate of Rutgers College and George Washington University School of Medicine. He completed his psychiatric residency training at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital. He’s board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in psychiatry and is a distinguished life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He’s a clinical associate professor of Psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, and he is well published in the peer reviewed literature. Welcome Dr. Bransfield. Thank you so much for talking to me today. How are you?
Robert Bransfield: Thank you for inviting me.
Dana Parish: It’s my pleasure. I’ve learned so much from you over the years about microbes and mental illness. You’ve blown my mind a million times and I cannot wait to share your knowledge today with everybody who’s going to watch and listen to this podcast. So, my first question is, does psychiatry pay enough attention and does medicine pay enough attention to microbes in infections and pathogens in mental illness? And if not, what is going on with the brain when we get neurologic infections?
Robert Bransfield: Well, not enough. If you look at the old views of what caused psychiatric issues, it was thought to be demonic possession. Then we blamed our mothers, and then we blamed serotonin. It doesn’t quite make sense (to people) that there’s something that causes psychiatric illness. But these illnesses don’t just come out of nowhere.
The problem is that nothing in the known universe for its size is more complex than the human brain. So, understanding the pathophysiology of the human brain is very challenging, especially the part involving psychiatric illness. That is much more complicated than general neurological illness where the circuits are not as complex as the circuits that impact psychiatric functioning. So, this causes a problem. When we look at all the possibilities, there are many things that contribute to mental illness—microbes are just one of them. But I think they are a very significant one and when you look long and hard enough, this does explain many psychiatric illnesses.
10 Years of Collaboration Bringing Hope: How Dr. John Aucott’s Relationship with Bay Area Lyme Helped Get Groundbreaking Biobanks Launched to Fuel the Research Engine of Lyme Disease Investigations
In this blog, part of our 10-year anniversary blog series, we talk with John Aucott, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, Director of the Lyme Disease Research Center, about his work and how his investigations are helping us understand persistent/chronic Lyme infections. A long-term collaborator and grant recipient of Bay Area Lyme Foundation, Dr. Aucott reflects on his history with our organization, the ongoing plight of Lyme disease patients, and the slow growth in government funding for investigations into the disease. He talks about the early days of identifying the need for well-characterized samples from Lyme patients and his role in helping launch biobank programs, including his own SLICE Study Biorepository and BAL’s Lyme Disease Biobank.
Bay Area Lyme: I want to take you right back to the very beginning of your relationship with Bay Area Lyme (BAL), the founding of your SLICE study and our Lyme Disease Biobank (LDB) and talk about everything that was happening 10 years ago. People talk about the “norming, storming and forming” stages of organizations, and there was an awful lot of activity going on 10 years ago in the world of Lyme disease. And so, please share your thoughts on what was happening around that time, your part in it, and how you came into the picture with BAL and our biobank.
John Aucott: My first memory is that I flew out to California and my agenda at that time was getting people interested in research. There was very little funding for Lyme disease research, and to some extent there still isn’t a great amount of funding for Lyme disease, especially the kind of research I do, which is clinical translational research. I’m an MD, so my research involves bridging basic science to human beings to patients. So, to be very candid about it, I was interested in getting BAL interested in my work. I pitched what we were doing. We had already set up the Johns Hopkins SLICE study, the Study of Lyme disease Immunology and Clinical Events. And at that point it was one of only two large scale biobanks collecting for Lyme disease. The other one is Dr. Gary Wormser’s, who still has a biobank in Valhalla, New York.
So, I was pitching the idea of a Lyme disease biobank to BAL, and this was a whole new concept. A biobank is a hard concept to sell initially because people don’t understand that setting up a biobank is like being Levi Strauss: It’s selling the Levis and the picks, and the shovels—not selling them the actual gold in your pocket. And it’s a hard pitch because people don’t understand that somebody has to supply the foundational work so that other people can mine for the gold. But BAL caught on to the idea that the biobank that we had at Hopkins was a crucial resource that would enable collaboration with other researchers to advance the scientific understanding of disease mechanisms and potentially identify and validate biomarkers for improving diagnostics and treatments.
Bay Area Lyme bought into the importance of this idea. The first thing that happened was you asked me to be on the BAL Scientific Advisory Board soon thereafter. BAL expressed support for the SLICE study’s biobank at Hopkins and you actually gave us one of our first grants to help support our biobank work. So, that was the first thing that happened. We applied for a grant, and we got a grant from BAL to help us because we had not yet gotten federal funding for it. So, that was one of the first grants to support it, and now in 2023 we are finally receiving our first NIH funding.
Bay Area Lyme Foundation is one of the first sources of information I found when I was finally diagnosed. I realized through the years that only a few resources could always be relied upon for accurate information based on scientific research. I also feel connected to BAL because I was bit in California by a tick that carried Lyme, Babesia, Bartonella, Erhlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and more. I have always trusted their information for over a decade now. What they do and continue to do to help this community is something I will always be grateful for.
Creating an uplifting space for Lyme patients has been my dream since my first TV interview when a local station asked me to come on and share my story. Once on camera, I was filled with passion when given the chance to speak about my story, the injustices of Lyme disease treatment and getting a late diagnosis.
From there, people started reaching out to me needing help. I had kind of lost myself in my illness and slowly, through advocacy work, I gained a feeling that I can only describe as finding your true purpose. When I help someone, I have peace.
I found groups to be depressing and I knew the only way to have the group that best served a patient in the ways I needed was to create it myself. I wanted a solution based group that required all of its members to act with kindness. Alongside my own Lyme doctor’s methods, member polls and an accumulation of top resources, I finally was able to create the first Lyme Disease and Co-Infections Directory to cover almost any topic related to these diseases. An easy way for a patient to find the information quickly and learn. I feel the more we understand about these diseases, why we have the symptoms we have and how to help ourselves heal, we become more hopeful and empowered.
“Government awards like CDMRP help propel much needed research on tick-borne illnesses forward, and, with three diagnostics projects using Biobank samples, we are honored to play a part in making this important research possible,” said Liz Horn, PhD, MBI, Principal Investigator, Lyme Disease Biobank, which provides researchers with access to reliable biological samples to enable research toward better diagnostics and treatments for these complex diseases. “If researchers don’t have access to well-characterized blood samples with robust testing and medical information, they can’t build the necessary research programs to develop better diagnostics, which are urgently needed for these complex diseases,” added Dr. Horn.
In this conversation between Ticktective™ host Dana Parish and Harvard-trained pediatric infectious diseases specialist Charlotte Mao, MD, the discussion focuses on how Dr. Mao gradually moved away from the narrow view of Lyme disease and began to champion understanding and therapeutics for children suffering from persistent Lyme. They explore tick-borne diseases and their connection to other chronic illnesses that are often misunderstood and misdiagnosed by conventional medicine. Note: This transcribed podcast has been edited for clarity.
Dana Parish: Welcome to the Ticktective Podcast, a program of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, where our mission is to make Lyme disease easy to diagnose, and simple to cure. I’m your guest host today, Dana Parish. I’m the co-author of the book Chronic, and I’m on the advisory board of Bay Area Lyme Foundation. This program offers insightful interviews with clinicians, scientists, patients, and other interesting people. We’re a non-profit foundation based in Silicon Valley, and thanks to a generous grant that covers a hundred percent of our overhead, all of your donations go directly to our research and our prevention programs. For more information about Lyme disease, please visit us atbayarealyme.org.
Dana Parish: Hi I’m so excited to guest host the Ticktective podcast today. I want to introduce you to a very dear friend of mine, one of the most brilliant, curious, interesting, funny, and dearest people. Please welcome Dr. Charlotte Mao. She is a pediatric infectious diseases physician with a special focus on Lyme disease and associated infections. She received her medical degree at Harvard Medical School and did her pediatric and infectious diseases training at Boston Children’s Hospital. The first 25 years of her career were focused primarily on pediatric HIV clinical care and clinical research, serving as a site co-investigator for numerous NIH funded multi-center pediatric HIV clinical trials at Boston Children’s Hospital. She turned her focus to Lyme and associated diseases after gaining extensive clinical experience with pediatric Lyme patients in Boston children’s hospital’s referring ID clinic. Then she joined the Pediatric Infectious Disease Department at Mass General Hospital and Spaulding Rehab Hospital Dean Center for Tick-borne Illness, where she was the pediatric IG specialist in a multidisciplinary clinic for children with complex Lyme disease. She is currently curriculum director for Invisible International. She most recently served on a tick-borne disease working group subcommittee for prevention and treatment and co-organized a Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Banbury Conference on perinatal transmission of Lyme Disease. She’s also on the Bay Area Lyme Foundation’s Science Committee. Welcome, Charlotte. It’s so great to see you!
In Puerto Rico, Donating Your Body to Science is Almost Impossible
Luisette Mauras Rodriguez is lying in bed at home in Guyana, Puerto Rico, waiting to die. She’s 46 years old, her body ravaged by Lyme, numerous tick-borne coinfections, and a multitude of other hits caused by environmental exposure to toxins like black mold, fungus, mycoplasma, and chikungunya virus. Family members do not understand her illness and laugh at her ‘exaggerations.’ Her husband left her because he fears getting sick and his religious convictions cause him to question the validity of her condition. Her mother, formerly a registered nurse, has abandoned her to her fate. Whenever Luisette gets desperate for help and goes to the ER, they refer her to the psych ward saying her illness is fabricated.
A former professional lab technician who worked in pharmaceutical development with US companies like Wyeth, SmithKline Beecham, and IPR Pharmaceuticals, Luisette has one dying wish: to donate her body to the Lyme Disease Biobank (LDB) so that samples from her brain, joints, organs, and tissues will be used to fuel much-needed research into Lyme and tick-borne diseases. She has registered with the National Disease Research Interchange (NDRI) in Philadelphia to have her body collected after her death, but as of writing this article, staff there are unable to find any medical professional on the island willing to partner with them to ensure this happens.
“We have been unsuccessful in securing anyone for recovery for the donor located in Puerto Rico. It has been very difficult getting anyone to follow up with us on top of the language barrier. We were trying to give the pathology department at the University time to get back to us but they seem to be very busy. The complexity of the recovery also makes it more difficult as well.” — Wauchita Green, Manager, Organ & Tissue Source Sites, NDRI, The National Disease Research Interchange