End of Summer Health Alert




Palo Alto, CA August 25, 2003 — The evidence is now piling too high to be ignored. Lyme disease is proving to be far more widespread—and far more devastating—than previously believed by the medical establishment. The often-misdiagnosed tick-borne pathogen is causing a wide variety of physical and mental conditions with life-threatening symptoms, and evidence is growing that Lyme can be transmitted from person to person, both sexually and pre-natally.

The Centers for Disease Control recorded 19,000 cases of Lyme nationwide in 2002, but the CDC also says that the actual number of cases may be ten times higher. Experts believe 90 percent of Lyme cases are missed because either the physicians or the tests employed are insufficiently sophisticated. Most doctors are taught to look for the tell-tale “bulls-eye” rash produced by Lyme-infected tick bites, but that rash appears in less than half of all Lyme infections, and many patients don’t even recall being bitten. And the individual Lyme tests usually conducted by physicians are less than reliable.

“We recently detected Lyme in 97 new patients,” said Dr. Nick Harris, CEO of IGeneX, a Lyme testing lab in Palo Alto. “During the same time period, the CDC reported only 34 cases of Lyme in California. Most labs utilize insufficient Lyme tests, and the CDC needs to change its testing criteria to accept the more advanced results that labs like ours provide.”

Lyme typically announces itself with flu-like symptoms, headaches, fatigue, swollen joints and muscle pain. Even when Lyme is properly diagnosed, it is often improperly treated. Three to four weeks of antibiotics is the standard treatment, but the Lyme pathogen can survive that brief course of treatment by “hiding” in the cells and body tissues. The International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), a medical organization dedicated to Lyme research and awareness, now recommends six to eight weeks of antibiotics to prevent the tough infection from coming back.

If not dealt with promptly, Lyme can become a chronic and disabling disease. Thirty-nine-year-old Charise Ott of Orange County, California contracted Lyme eight years ago and repeatedly tested positive for the disease, but was told by eleven different doctors that she didn’t have it. By the time she was properly diagnosed and treated, the damage was done. Ott now suffers from serious cardiac problems and irreparable retinal damage that may lead to blindness. And her eight-year-old son was recently diagnosed with Lyme she passed on to him during childbirth. Both are finally under long-term antibiotic treatment.

Some experts have believed for several years that many cases of arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple sclerosis are actually misdiagnosed manifestations of Lyme disease. But the neurological devastation of Lyme is now also considered a possible cause of many mental illnesses, including clinical depression, manic-depressive syndrome, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and uncontrollable rages. A recent European study shows that psychiatric in-patients are nearly twice as likely as the average population to test positive for Lyme, and the National Institutes of Health is currently sponsoring a major study of neuropsychiatric Lyme disease in an effort to illuminate specific changes in the brain.

“Lyme disease is like an injury of the brain,” said Robert Bransfield, MD, a psychiatrist in Red Bank, New Jersey. “Lyme disease often strikes an entire families and the result is a higher incidence of divorce, family dysfunction, and domestic violence. Patients are less able to think things through, and tend to act impulsively. A mother may suddenly lash out at her child and a husband may lose control and abuse his wife.”

Bransfield says young people are the most likely to act out. “I’ve seen so many straight-A kids whose grades suddenly start to slip. Then they rebel against the family and start fighting with their peers. However, these kids generally improve after treatment with antibiotics.”

“Lyme produces a micro-edema, or swelling in the brain,” said Bernard Raxlen, MD, an ILADS expert. “This affects your ability to process information. It’s like finding out that there’s LSD in the punch, and you’re not sure what’s going to happen next or if you’re going to be in control of your own thoughts.”

Physicians nationwide describe business executives, attorneys, realtors, honor roll students and parents who suddenly are unable to function normally because of confusion, disorientation, loss of concentration and severe anxiety. Symptoms vary in intensity, and stress is a key trigger factor. Family problems, job losses or illnesses can send Lyme patients into emotional crisis.

“My patients come in to talk about their marital problems and are surprised to learn that they are linked to an organic illness,” says Virginia Sherr, MD, a psychiatrist in Lyme-prone eastern Pennsylvania. Ninety percent of Sherr’s patients test positive for Lyme disease.

ILADS physicians say these symptoms can be alleviated or reversed with long-term oral or intravenous antibiotic treatment, but stress the importance of early diagnosis and treatment.

For more information log onto the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society website at

Media Contact Lyme Disease Expert
Christi O’Connor Dr. Nick Harris
Medallion Media IGeneX Reference Laboratory
(415) 883–2491 (650) 424–1191

IGeneX, Inc.
795 San Antonio Rd., Palo Alto, CA 94303 USA
Tel. 650.424.1191 / 800.832.3200 Fax. 650.424.1196