Harvard Doctor Speaks Out About Lyme Disease Misinformation

Harvard Doctor Speaks Out About Lyme Disease Misinformation

Spaulding Hospital, ranked 5th in the country among rehabilitation hospitals by US News & World Report has opened a special center for chronic Lyme disease in Boston Massachusetts, to deal with the Lyme epidemic in the Boston area.Of course they don’t openly advertise this, but word has passed quickly within the Lyme community that there is finally a medical center for people with chronic Lyme.  On their website they say,

“There are several theories on why patients remain ill. Some of the proposed mechanisms are persistent infection, where the spirochete might survive current antibiotic regimens and remain in the system, continuing to irritate the immune system. Other studies illuminate autoimmune dysregulation after an infection and research ongoing inflammation.”

Julie Ambrosino is finally being treated at the Dean Center for a chronic case of Lyme she has suffered with for over six years. “So many doctors don’t want to acknowledge the chronic form of this disease,” she reported to the Boston Globe.  Ambrosino visited 30 specialists and underwent 150 blood tests searching for answers before coming to Spaulding. “I live 24/7 in this varying state of unwellness.”

Meanwhile the co-director of the Dean Center, Nevena Zubcevik, has been quietly speaking about the problems with current IDSA treatment guidelines which many believe underlies and makes worse the growing problem of chronic Lyme disease.  The following was reported by Paul Hetzler:

In a July 2016 presentation to fellow physicians, Dr. Nevena Zubcevik of the Harvard Medical School, and co-director of the Dean Center for Tick-Borne Illnesses, warned that the medical community is not keeping up with current findings. For example, “The conception that the tick has to be attached for 48 hours is completely outdated,” she said, citing studies that show ticks can transmit disease in as little as 10 minutes.

She also stated that the two-day course of doxycycline currently prescribed when an embedded tick is discovered is worthless, saying “It should be a 20-day thing […] regardless of time of [tick] engorgement.” Equally surprising is the fact that only 20 percent of Lyme cases show the classic “bull’s-eye rash,” or erythema migrans. In the past it was believed that the majority of Lyme cases exhibited this outward-spreading rash.

But what may be the most troubling recent finding is the idea that Lyme tests are spectacularly unreliable. Zubcevik points out that there are at least 10 different variants of Borrelia burgdorferi, the organism responsible for Lyme, most of which do not show up on the ELISA or Western blot tests. And if that wasn’t bad enough, a newly-identified, closely-related species of pathogen, Borrelia miyamotoi, also causes Lyme, and does not show up on any tests at all. Dr. Zubcevik contends that under current testing guidelines, 69 of 100 Lyme cases will not be diagnosed in a timely fashion.

In a good-news, bad-news finding, it appears that some cases of so-called “early-onset dementia,” and even certain mental illness diagnoses, may be caused by Lyme, but that they can potentially be reversed through treatment. Singer and songwriter Kris Kristofferson’s dementia was completely cured after he was properly diagnosed with Lyme and treated. “Sudden-onset dementia should be a red flag for Lyme,” says Dr. Zubcevic.

Zubcevik is a graduate of Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine and University of California at San Francisco. She did an internship in Internal Medicine at St. Petersburg General Hospital in Florida. She completed her residency training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School/Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital residency program, over her time as a resident physician Dr. Zubcevik co-coordinated yearly conferences at Massachusetts General Hospital on the topic of Tick Borne Illness as well as patient support group and physician education course.

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