Category Archives: Chronic Disease

Lyme Disease Awareness Month

The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore has recently opened a new 16,000 square-foot $24 million facility, exclusively for the treatment of patients with chronic infectious diseases.

Named for the former director of the Hopkins’ division of infectious diseases, the John G. Bartlett Specialty Practice is expected to see approximately 170 patients each day. David Thomas, MD, director of the infectious diseases division at Johns Hopkins, explains that the geographic region of East Baltimore “has a greater burden of infectious diseases than most other regions of the country.”

The timing is particularly significant this month, as May represents Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Researchers and scientists across the country have consistently warned that the numbers of those afflicted with Lyme are expected to rise, calling the disease “a major U.S. public health problem.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are seeking to combat the rising epidemic, collaborating with local lawmakers and public health officials to raise awareness about Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses. Lawmakers in New York have recently spoken out in order to educate the public and medical community, in addition to fundraising money for further research.

There are approximately 329,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year, and the number of those infected is expected to increase. According to Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, the illness is on track to produce its worst numbers in 2017. Moreover, many experts believe the true number of Lyme cases is higher than reported, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention require ‘objective measures’ like positive blood tests or rashes; therefore, estimates indicate that CDC surveillance only captures approximately 10% of reportable Lyme cases. There is currently no vaccine for Lyme disease, and many physicians have noted that the FDA-approved blood tests are often inaccurate.

In order to learn more about the complex, multi-faceted nature of chronic infectious diseases, sign up for our upcoming Chronic Infections, Inflammation, and Biotoxins Symposium in Las Vegas, on August 12th. Experts will review the epidemiology of chronic infections from a global public health perspective, while discussing the application of advanced diagnostic techniques, including nanotechnology and genomic sequencing.

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Acorns Signify Spike in Lyme Disease

Experts warn that a bumper crop of acorns could be the catalyst for an unprecedented outbreak of Lyme Disease in the United States. Dr. Andrew Heyman, Program Director of Integrative and Metabolic Medicine at George Washington University, and an expert on chronic infections and Lyme, confirms: “New Lyme cases correlate with acorn bumper crops. Not to say there IS an outbreak—but the conditions are right for one.”

According to Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, the illness is on track to produce its worst numbers in 2017. An estimated 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year; yet the illness is a global phenomenon, and diagnoses could soon soar to historically unprecedented levels. Researchers in Poland discovered similar acorn trends last year, and are expecting 2018 to pose a high risk of Lyme disease infections.

The acorn surge indicates that mouse populations will climb, which in turn gives rise to more disease-carrying ticks. Mice population predictions are based on the acorns, and infected nymph ticks correspond with the mice numbers. One mouse alone has the potential to carry hundreds of immature ticks. The tick population is further spiking due to the country’s warmer winters and earlier springs.

The rodents’ blood contains the bacteria that causes Lyme—Borrelia burgdorferi—which is transferred to the stomach of the tick as it feeds. The bacteria can subsequently be passed on to whatever new host the tick ultimately latches onto: including humans.

There are few preventive measure to take, as there is currently no vaccine available for Lyme disease. Moreover, ticks are tiny—some as small as poppy seeds—and the flu-like symptoms that occur after being infected are often easy to misdiagnose, as some people infected with Lyme may not exhibit the telltale bulls-eye rash. The later stage is generally when people get untreated, highly problematic Lyme disease.

While a French-based biotech group Valneva has produced a new Lyme vaccine, it is currently in early human trials, and at least six years away from being publicly released.

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Common Blood Tests: Predicting Chronic Disease

In a recent study conducted at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, researchers found a way to predict the future risk of diabetes or dementia, and other chronic diseases, through the combination of common blood test results.

Presented last week at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, the research indicates that a score based on a common blood test could—within three years of taking the test—help people gauge their risk of developing chronic diseases. The simple risk score, termed the Intermountain Chronic Disease Risk Score was 77-78 percent accurate in its predictions of the most common chronic diseases.

Based on a comprehensive metabolic panel, which includes tests for blood glucose and liver function coupled with a complete blood count that measures the quantity of different types of blood cells, this score could likely ultimately help physicians better allocate their time and resources. A patient whose score puts him/her in the high-risk group might receive more intensive patient education about lifestyle, or other preventive measures, with a follow-up visit in six months as opposed to a year.

The tests utilized to calculate the score are commonly performed at routine checkups, while the score itself can easily be calculated by the hospital’s electronic health record—making it easier for doctors to use, and at a low incremental expense. The potential benefits are enormous: enabling patients to lead healthier lives as they avoid, or proactively learn to manage chronic diseases; helping patients avoid serious complications that often result from unmanaged chronic diseases; and dramatically decreasing the costs of healthcare.

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