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No Longer Just Lyme--Co-Infections Challenge Doctors And Patients



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No Longer Just Lyme––

Co-Infections Challenge Doctors And Patients

By Dottie Evans

An informational forum on Lyme disease sponsored by the Newtown Rotary Club in cooperation with the Newtown Lyme Disease Task Force on Monday night at the Fireside Inn was so well-attended that chairs were at a premium. Several of the 300 attendees stood at the rear throughout the two-hour presentation.

When Pat Smith, Lyme Disease Association president, asked how many in the audience had suffered Lyme disease, were now suffering from it, or had a family member who was struggling with it, more than 100 hands went up.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, also on the panel of presenters, spoke briefly and soberly about the impact of Lyme disease on Connecticut residents, especially children.

“This battle is profoundly important. Lyme is an insidious, growing threat and if we have children, we are more cognizant and sensitive. I applaud the courage of people such as you who are coming forward.”

He added that the state system for reporting Lyme disease cases “is woefully inadequate, and a new standard for diagnosis needs to be realistically set.”

Ms Smith also spoke on behalf of children with Lyme disease.

“Schools need more education on this issue. The children suffering with Lyme or other tick-borne diseases [termed TBDs] may experience a 20-point drop in IQ, and a drop in grade point average. They suffer psychological damage when they are unable to participate in sports, lose friends, and feel isolated,” she added.

It seems that children, as well as the elderly or those with compromised immune systems, are at the greatest risk of contracting Lyme disease. And while Lyme disease caused by the spirochete bacterium Borrelis burgdorferi is most widely recognized, it is not the only infection that can be transmitted to humans by a bite from the black-legged or deer tick.

Several other infectious diseases, such as erlichiosis, babesiosis, and bartonella or cat-scratch fever, may also be passed along. In fact, as many as 40 percent of those suffering chronic Lyme disease may also have one or more of these other diseases.

“Patients are having trouble getting diagnosed and treated,” Ms Smith said, adding that under current Center for Disease Control (CDC) surveillance criteria, only one-tenth of actual cases have been reported.

“The fact that Connecticut numbers in 2003 were down 72 percent is the result of the fact that labs are no longer required to report the cases. It’s a paper drop only,” she cautioned.

A Social Phenomenon: Nightly Tick Checks

The evening’s keynote speaker was Dr Richard Horowitz, a former assistant director of medicine at Vassar Brothers Hospital and currently a practicing physician in Hyde Park, N.Y., who has dedicated the past 20 years to the study and treatment of Lyme disease at the Hudson Valley Healing Arts Center.

“I’ve treated more than 7,000 cases of persistent Lyme, and I can tell you it’s a very complicated disease, and it’s everywhere. Prevention is impossible. Only Antarctica does not have it,” Dr Horowitz said.

“You must be your own doctor. Do a tick check every single night. Find someone else, and do it together. If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers and pull straight up,” he advised.

“You must also think like a doctor. Lyme disease presents with clinical symptoms that you must learn to watch for,” Dr Horowitz said.

These symptoms include feeling tired and experiencing night sweats and chills; drenching sweats during the day; a stiff neck and headache; memory problems and difficulties recalling words; joint pain that comes and goes, and migrates throughout the body from knee to elbow to shoulder; sensitivity to bright light; and flulike symptoms.

“Obviously, you must look for the expanding, red EM rash [erythema migrans] within three to 21 days after the bite. It will disappear even without treatment and may lie dormant for ten months,” he warned.

“Not everyone who has Lyme gets a rash,” he added.

If additional symptoms such as seizures, nausea, or vision problems persist after initial treatment for Lyme disease with antibiotics, this is a signal that another TBD may be involved.

“There is a universe of organisms that these ticks contain and treatment must be different for each disease. You might need more than one drug. Most people are multiply co-infected,” Dr Horowitz said.

“In the office, I’ve seen patients as sick as those with congestive heart failure. Talk about terrorism being a threat to the United States; we’re looking at an epidemic of Lyme and other TBDs here, and that is the worst threat imaginable,” Dr Horowitz said.

A Universe of


Besides the Lyme disease bacterium, there are an increasing number of other infections that may be transmitted.

Erlichiosis may cause flulike symptoms, usually occurring within five to ten days after the tick bite.

“A patient will also present with high fever and aches and pains, as well as a low white cell count, high liver functions, and low platelets. Erlichiosis is very specific and can be treated well with antibiotics if it is caught early,” Dr Horowitz said.

Babesiosis, a malarialike disease, also presents with an intermittent high fever, but includes chills and drenching daytime sweats, loss of appetite and anemia.

“Forty percent of those with chronic Lyme are co-infected with babesiosis…it takes a whole battery of tests to diagnose it.”

Bartonella, also called cat scratch fever because it can be transmitted by a cat bite or scratch as well as a tick bite, may cause seizure disorders and memory loss or confusion. There may be vision problems and it may present with significant lymph node enlargement. Again, treatment is unique and specific to the disease.

Dr Horowitz closed his talk on a hopeful note, mentioning that for the first time in 20 years, he has seen evidence of a possible treatment solution occurring right before his eyes, “in my office during the last 30 days.”

A patient had come in who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, and was given glutathione by intravenous injection to remove heavy metals stored in his brain cells.

“Neurotoxins produced by the Borrelia spirochete, or Lyme disease bacterium, also interacts with heavy metals in our cells,” Dr Horowitz pointed out.

After being given the IV dose, the patient showed 90 percent improvement within ten minutes. His joint pain was gone and his cognitive symptoms improved markedly.

“We repeated the experiment doing a double blind test with saline instead of the glutathione,” Dr Horowitz said, adding that the results were encouraging and consistent.

“All these chemicals in our bodies cause inflammation, and glutathione seems to act like a sponge that pulls them out. I’m very excited about this.”

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