It is estimated that there are over 100 strains of Borrelia in the US, and over 200 strains worldwide, but IDSA recommended testing is still based on one lab-identified strain called B-31. This strange and unconscionable state of affairs has been gradually making itself known over the last decade. Recently a young boyfrom Millford, Connecticut made the medical journals due to the extremity of his case. When he was 13 years old, he was diagnosed with Lyme disease and treated quickly – his symptoms resolved within weeks of antibiotics. However, the symptoms returned and like many, he was not given antibiotics to treat Lyme disease but turned away.
The boy’s neurological symptoms became so severe that he missed a full year of school but an infectious disease specialist claimed he was not suffering with Lyme. Upon medical advice he was institutionalized in a psychiatric ward. In a frantic attempt to help their child, and due to anecdotal stories from friends and family, they kept returning to the possibility of a chronic case of Lyme. They finally found a doctor at Milford Hospital who was a pioneer in genetic testing who was willing to dig deeper. Dr. Lee was able to show a low density of B. burgdorferi sensu lato in the blood of the boy – now 16 years old – and confirmed his diagnosis as Lyme disease.
For the microbiologists out there, the infection was revealed by partial 16S rRNA (ribosomal RNA) gene sequencing. Subsequent DNA sequencing analysis demonstrated that the spirochete isolate was a novel strain of B. burgdorferi with two homeologous 16S rRNA genes, which has never been reported in the world literature.
Dr. Sin Hang Lee was originally trained in his native China, and specialized in pathology in the US. He was on the faculty of McGill University and Yale University from 1968-2004 while practicing hospital-based pathology and is currently the director of Milford Molecular Diagnostics at Milford Hospital.
In the past 10 years, Dr. Lee has developed Sanger sequencing-based testing methods for Lyme disease (as well as HPV, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia trachomatis, and the Ebola virus) and is quietly campaigning for the implementation of this highly specific and reliable testing method.
As my readers know, there are highly placed doctors on the board of the IDSA who have existing financial contracts with Big Pharma to create a more accurate and commercially viable diagnosis tool (and cure) for Lyme disease, and it appears that they have been successfully discrediting any competing ideas like the blood culture at Advanced Lab Services. (See previous blog posts.)
As Dr. Lee reported in his report, “…this case shows that direct DNA sequencing is a valuable tool for reliable molecular diagnosis of Lyme and related borrelioses, as well as for studies of the diversity of the causative agents of LD because LD patients infected by a rare or novel borrelial variant may produce an antibody pattern that can be different from the pattern characteristic of an infection caused by a typical B. burgdorferi sensu stricto strain.”
Another discovery that is adding pressure to test for “wild” species of Borrelia is the discovery of Borrelia mayonii in the Midwest, where the Lyme disease did not officially exist (according to the CDC).
The CDC also reports,
“The newly recognized species was discovered when six of approximately 9,000 samples drawn from residents of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota with suspected Lyme disease between 2012 and 2014 were found to contain bacteria that were genetically distinct from B. burgdorferi. Scientists analyzed the DNA sequences of these bacteria and found that they belonged to a previously unrecognized Borrelia species. Blood from two of the patients was also tested by culture at CDC, whereby the organism is grown in the laboratory.”
You may recall that the late Dr. Masters fought the CDC for decades on another unknown Borrelia strain. Eventually called STARI, the disease causes a bulls-eye rash and similar symptoms as Lyme disease but appears to be carried by the Lone Star tick. Dr. Brian Fallon reports that
“…the hallmark of STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness) is the Lyme-like lesion. The rash usually appears within seven days of a Lone Star tick bite, and similar to the Lyme lesion, expands in a circular or elliptical fashion. Patients with STARI can also have constitutional symptoms, such as fever, headache, stiff neck, myalgias and joint pain, but these are less frequent and generally less severe in STARI patients than in patients with Lyme disease.”
The bottom line is that we can’t count on the CDC to protect or help us. Each of us must be responsible for their own health and insist for better tests when chronic Lyme disease is suspected.