Breakthrough in Lyme Disease Treatment

7-7-19 Breakthrough in Lyme

Previously, I talked about ticks and how to identify, prevent, and be aware of what we should be looking out for. I saw recently that in the Staunton paper, The News Leader, that there’s been a breakthrough in Lyme disease treatment. 

Brandon Jutras, a biochemist and an assistant professor of biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, discovered the cellular component that contributes to Lyme arthritis which is extremely painful and the most common stage symptom of Lyme disease. Having this research now, it could provide a new way to diagnose Lyme disease and Lyme arthritis. Jutras said, 

“This discovery will help researchers improve diagnostic tests and may lead to new treatment options for patients suffering with Lyme arthritis..This is an important finding and we think that it has major implications for many manifestations of Lyme disease, not just Lyme arthritis.”

Jutras states that nothing significant in science is accomplished without collaboration. Dr. Allen Steere, a Harvard doctor who originally identified Lyme disease in the 1970s, helped Jutras with his research and provided access to patient’s samples. 

According to WSET, we’re in for another big tick season. That’s because relatively mild winters, like the past ones we’ve had, allow the tick population to grow. The growth in tick population and the rise of tick-borne illnesses have health officials paying extra attention. I read on UVA’s blog called “Healthy Balance” that the VA Department of Health is asking people who have been bitten by a tick to take a quick online survey and mail them the tick so that they can use this information to better understand where in Virginia certain tick species can be found, as well as the species that are biting people. 

Lyme disease is the most reported vector-bone disease in the country and Virginia reports a 6,000 percent increase in the last 15 years. The Centers for Disease Control estimated around 300,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed every year. Scientists predict that the number of people infected with Lyme will only increase as our climate continues to change. and that the increase may be due to the bacterium that causes Lyme becoming more common in wild mammals and ticks- and when those animals, like deer, live near people, disease spreads quickly. 

It’s very important to go to a doctor if you’re feeling any symptoms that point towards Lyme disease. If untreated, it can spread to other parts of your body for several months and even years after being infected. We already know that in later stages it causes arthritis but it also affects your nervous system, and complications involving your heart. 

I talked about tick and Lyme prevention in my last story, but again, if you’re spending time outside, use insect repellent with DEET and wear a hat. Wearing a long-sleeve shirt and long pants if it’s not too hot will also help keep ticks off you. Put your clothes in the dryer for 20 minutes afterwards to kill any ticks on them, and check yourself carefully and efficiently.

For AMR News, I’m Abby Dufour. 

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Abby Dufour

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