Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Recent Lyme Disease Research News And Breakthroughs: Part 2

I first began blogging about notable Lyme research news and breakthroughs in November 2012, primarily for myself. And there has been some good news in the world of Lyme research. Good meaning research that reveals the truth about Lyme through the medium of science, which will hopefully lead to higher standards of care for patients, including better testing and treatment options.

Since first posting Part 1 in 2012, more revealing discoveries concerning Borrelia bacteria, Lyme disease, and other tick-borne infections have been published. All genuine research is undoubtedly valuable, but I've chosen five studies I personally think hold significance in the world of Lyme and tick-borne diseases. I'm sure there are more out there, but these are the ones I'm focusing on in this post. They're listed in the most recent order.

Please go here if you'd like to read Recent Lyme Disease Research News and Breakthroughs: Part 1

- Michelle

1.) Dr. Eva Sapi, Ph.D., professor and department head of Biology and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, and her research team suggests the reason the Borrelia spirochetes that cause Lyme disease are often resistant to treatment is because they form a biofilm in the body that allows it to "hideout" from antibiotics.

Their new study, published February 9, 2016, in the European Journal of Microbiology and Immunology, is the first to demonstrate the presence of Borrelia biofilm in human infected skin tissues, confirming these structures can exist in the human body. 

That biofilm - which has a very protective layer you might call "slime" - actually makes the bacteria up to 1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics than other bacteria.

"These findings could change the way we think about Lyme disease," Sapi, who has chronic Lyme disease herself, said, "especially in patients where it seems to be a persistent disease, despite long-term antibiotic treatment. This recent finding could help to better understand how Borrelia can survive treatment and elucidation of the biofilm components and will provide novel therapeutic targets for chronic Lyme disease, with the hope of eradicating Borrelia in these patients."

UNH Research Confirms Lyme Disease Bacteria Biofilm in Human Body (University of New Haven Press Release, February 23, 2016)

Evidence of In Vivo Existence of Borrelia Biofilm in Borrelial Lymphocytomas (Akademiai: European Journal of Microbiology and Immunology, February 9, 2016)


2.) Researchers at U.C. San Francisco and Johns Hopkins may have found a new way to diagnose Lyme disease based on a distinctive gene "signature" they discovered in white blood cells of patients infected with tick-borne bacteria. 

Dr. Charles Chiu, MD, Ph.D., an associate professor of laboratory medicine at UCSF, and lead investigator for the study, and Dr. John Aucott, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and senior investigator on the study, published these findings February 12, 2016, in mBio, a journal published by the American Society of Microbiology. 

In the study, researchers examined 29 patients before and after receiving a 3-week course of antibiotic treatment and then again 6 months later. Compared to patients with other active bacterial or viral infections, the Lyme disease patients had distinctive gene signatures that persisted for at least 3 weeks - even after taking antibiotics. Some differences in the transcriptome lingered for 6 months. 

"To our knowledge, this study is the first to document changes in gene expression occurring even after a bacterial infection has been treated with appropriate antibiotics," said Dr. Aucott.

Gene Signature Could Lead to a New Way of Diagnosing Lyme (University of California News, February 17, 2016)

Gene Discovery Could Point to New Lyme Disease Test (U.S. News and World Report Health, February 12, 2016)


3.) Researchers from Rutgers University Public Health Research Institute at New Jersey Medical School are developing a vastly improved test for Lyme disease and associated pathogens Anaplasma and Babesia.

Dr. Nikhat Parveen, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry, and Molecular Genetics, and Dr. Salvatore A.E. Marras, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the same department, have been working on the new assay since 2006. Today, the test is significantly closer to widespread availability. It could still take a year or more before the assay is licensed and receives FDA approval.

What makes the test so important for Lyme sufferers or those suspected of having Lyme disease is its accuracy. Their assay is based on molecular beacons, which Marras compares to "little lanterns," that will light up when they encounter specific pathogens associated with Lyme, allowing this new blood test to reveal the presence of the bacteria themselves rather than just antibodies to them. Also, the test's ability to find and distinguish Anaplasma and Babesia makes it potentially valuable to blood banks, which at present have no way to test for these pathogens.

Lyme Aid (Rutgers Magazine, Rutgers University, New Jersey, Winter 2016 Issue)


4.) Researchers at the University of California, Davis, led by Dr. Nicole Baumgarth, DVM, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine and an authority on the immune response to infectious diseases at UC Davis Center for Comparative Medicine, published findings from their mouse-based study July 2, 2015, in PLOS Pathogens, which demonstrated that an animal infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, the corkscrew-shaped bacteria that cause Lyme disease, launches only a short-lived immune response. That protective immunity against repeat infections quickly wanes. 

Bacteria initially triggered a robust immune response in the infected animal. Still, findings from this study indicate the bacteria soon cause structural abnormalities in "germinal centers" — sites in lymph nodes and other lymph tissues that are key to producing a long-term protective immune response. 

This discovery may explain why some human patients remain vulnerable to repeat infections by the same strain of bacteria.

Suppression of Long-Lived Humoral Immunity Following Borrelia burgdorferi Infection (PLOS Pathogens, July 2, 2015)

Lyme Disease Subverts Immune System, Prevents Future Protection (University of California Davis Press Release, July 2, 2015)


Dr. Kerry Clark, Ph.D., associate professor of public health at the University of North Florida, and his colleagues made a huge discovery and published their findings on May 13, 2014. Instead, I should say they made scientific confirmation of what many of us with Lyme already know. Lyme disease exists in people in southern states. 

Dr. Clark's research findings establish much-needed scientific credence. He has studied Lyme and other tick-borne diseases in the southeastern United States for the past twenty years. His findings are very significant because medical doctors and the CDC have said for years that Lyme is rare or nonexistent in the south.

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