It is hard to believe that one of the leaders of the IDSA routinely lies about scientific research – especially when it effects the health and well-being of so many people.But that is the case with Dr. Gary Wormser.
According to Wormser chronic Lyme disease does not exist, however many others disagree. In fact doctors are fiercely divided on the cause of the lingering symptoms in up to 20% of people diagnosed with Lyme disease.
The controversy goes all the way back to the initial discovery of Lyme disease in 1980 by Dr. Willy Burgdorfer. The competition between Burgdorfer (who was actually searching for the causative agent for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever) and Dr. Alan Steere, a Yale doctor investigating the cause of inexplicable juvenile arthritis in a group of children in Lyme Connecticut, set the stage for the ongoing debate. Burgdorfer meticulously documented the elusive nature of the spirochete bacteria but Steere, with his background in rheumatology , insisted on limiting the pool of possible victims to those who could demonstrate swollen joints (and still does in his practice.)
The first meetings to create treatment guidelines for LD resulted in such heated debate regarding the definition of chronic symptoms that the committee chair was demoted and one committee member was kicked out all together (taken from Cure Unknown by Pamela Weintraub, pgs 270-271). Now there are 2 competing guidelines one by the IDSA and one by ILADS.
The Scientific American sums up the medical controversy quite well. In it, Dr. Wormser, chief of the division of infectious diseases at New York Medical College says,
“There’s been no evidence that this persister phenomenon has any relevance for animals or humans. First, lab studies of B. burgdorferi cannot account for the potential effects of the body’s immune system, which might be able to eliminate persisters once the brunt of the infection has cleared. Second, labs have yet to grow B. burgdorferi isolated from people treated with antibiotics, and that raises questions about whether the persisters are even viable and capable of making someone sick.”
This statement flies in the face of over 700 peer-reviewed articles that show irrefutable evidence of persister behavior. Such flagrant lies are not surprising given the morphological nature of the disease combined with the intractable position prominent doctors have taken on the subject. (“Don’t bother me with the facts, son.”)
Several recent peer-reviewed medical studies by Johns Hopkins, Stanford and Northeastern, have shown that certain combinations of antibiotics are more effective against Lyme disease than others. These studies may seem unremarkable but in fact they quietly acknowledge the existence of chronic Lyme disease and the very persister phenomenon Wormser denies.
And Dr. Kim Lewis,University Distinguished Professor of Biology and the Director of Antimicrobial Discovery Center at Northeastern University says,
“I find it amazing that when you show up at the doctor’s office you are not told that there is a 10 to 20 percent chance that your life as you know it has ended. Nobody seems to be focusing on the next step: How to prevent the subsequent rise of the chronic condition.”
The CDC and the IDSA, the leading agencies responsible for setting a standard of care for the treatment of infectious disease in the US, have staunchly refused to acknowledge that chronic Lyme disease exists, and it will be interesting to see how long it takes for them to change the official position.
Ironically, Dr. Paul Auwaerter, clinical director in the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Sherrilyn and Ken Fisher Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is also the current VP on the IDSA board of directors. Will he advocate updating treatment guidelines for Lyme disease?
Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, perhaps this shameful affair can be best understood by the following quote:
“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” Max Planck (23 April 1858 – 4 October 1947), the originator of modern quantum theories who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.