Sign in with Google+ Sign in with LinkedIn
Borrelia burgdorferi

How I survived the Herx

Ten years ago, one day in July, 2005, I was sick with Lyme, and vacillating between extremes. I was feeling pretty positive most of the day, symptoms not horrible, merely terrible…a big improvement.

But at that moment, my naturopath called, and our conversation sent me into a mental funk.

Through the brain fog, I strained to comprehend what he was suggesting.

He explained that he really didn’t want to prescribe antibiotics. But in the next breath he said that because I was not out of the woods, I really must use them.

He said antibiotics were crucial now, because there was a neurological involvement we must address. Neuroborrellia.

He recommended intravenous antibiotics, and thought I should have an IV for the next several weeks. That meant getting a catheter stuck into my arm and bringing home a portable IV stand with a bag. Then I would be injecting myself with antibiotics every day.

The thought of having a tube stuck into my arm me depressed me to no end. But the problem was, there was evidence that with Lyme disease, long-term antibiotics are effective. In fact, they may be the only way to prevent symptoms from returning.

It was a conundrum. I felt like I was being pulled in two directions at once. I did not want the catheter. I did not want to stay on antibiotics. I dreaded the Herx. But, I did want to kill the spirochetes, and I did want to get completely well.

Evan, however, was convinced that I was coming along really well. He was my systems-thinking cheerleader.

“Look at the numbers,” he said. “You have only been on the antibiotics for twelve days. You added a second antibiotic on Friday. Okay, so you herxed in misery. But instead of seeing that as bad,” he said, “look at it this way. The Herx proves the antibiotics are doing their job. They're killing the spirochetes efficiently.”

And it turned out that he was right. Doctors call it a die off. The Herx is one of the ways of measuring the effectiveness of the antibiotics. It’s a case of the cure being as bad as the illness.

Spirochetes — the original survivalists
Spirochetes are ancient organisms, eons older than dinosaurs. Over the ages they have had nothing else to do but refine their survival techniques.

For such minuscule critters, they’ve got a sophisticated arsenal of ways to keep from detected by your immune system. They can armor themselves with cysts to keep the antibiotics from reaching them, and morph into other forms, thus playing hide ’n seek in your tissues, muscles, organs, and brain.

The spirochetes are the villains, and the last thing they want is for the Terminator — your immune system — to locate and destroy them.

Fight back! Why anaerobic exercise helps
Lyme spirochetes thrive in a cold, low body temperature. I was beginning to get the idea that I would have to fight back, and fight hard. As much as possible, I started to include therapies and lifestyle changes that would increase my core body temp.

The good news is that Borrelia burgdorferi are anaerobic organisms and can't survive in a high oxygen environment.

My plan to fight back began to take shape back then. It started off pretty slowly I admit. Surviving the Herxes was easier said than done. I drank a whole lot of water with lemon. I slept. I endured and persevered, like you are doing.

Don't let the Herx scare you
I knew in my heart that the more I could manage to raise my core body temperature, the more the spirochetes I could kill. It was my main goal, to kill them, and to try to not kill myself with a Herx.

It wasn't easy trying to get enough exercise. I had a hard time standing up, let alone walking around the neighborhood. But I kept at it, determined to be as proactive in my healing as I could.

Today, ten years to the month from my diagnosis, I'm a martial artist, with two solid years of practice logged on my journey from Borreliosis to black belt.

You don't have to join a Taekwondo school. You don't have to sweat through hours of hot yoga, play basketball, dance, or climb steep mountainsides if you don't want to. But you do have to make a plan to be as proactive in your own healing as you possibly can. The doctors can only do so much. The rest is really up to you.

Did I ever get the IV antibiotics?

In the end, the decision was made for me. I couldn’t afford it, so I passed. These days, I might have been tempted, since now I've got health insurance. But in 2005, it simply wasn’t a choice.

Comments

Genomes of 13 strains Lyme bugs mapped

Lyme can sure be a complicated puzzle. For example, knowing that Lyme is an inflammatory disease is one thing. But knowing what to do about that is quite another.  My personal approach often feels scattershot: add turmeric to my supplemental arsenal. Take daily doses of quercetin. Drink water, exercise, avoid sugar.  But doctors are far from being in agreement about therapies, and health websites and magazines are stuffed with pop advice. Some is helpful, some is contradictory or otherwise confusing.

But what can medical science tell us about dealing with chronic inflammation? There is actually good news in this area from a recent study.

Researchers have mapped the genomes of the 13 strains of bacterium that play the most prominent role in causing Lyme disease. This project may help us understand why a significant number of Lyme patients suffer with a chronic inflammatory response. The study may yield some answers to the problem of inflammation, an auto-immune response. More importantly, it may give us clues about what to do about it.
Apparently the discovery is exciting Lyme researchers because they have found that proteins on the surface of the Borrelia bacterium can signal the immune system by attaching to receptors on the surface of white blood cells. The white blood cells are the ones responsible for fighting off infection.
That tiny attachment triggers production of an external protein that traps and stops other white blood cells from controlling the production of antibodies. When this occurs, antibodies are churned out in large numbers, often non-specifically, which results in inflammation throughout the body.
Researchers conclude that through therapeutic intervention they may be able to detach that external protein, and thereby suppress the inflammatory response.
Here is the abstract of the article, online in the Journal of Bacteriology:

Borrelia burgdorferi
is a causative agent of Lyme disease in North America and Eurasia. The first complete genome sequence of B. burgdorferi strain 31, available for more than a decade, has assisted research on the pathogenesis of Lyme disease. Because a single genome sequence is not sufficient to understand the relationship between genotypic and geographic variation and disease phenotype, we determined the whole genome sequences of 13 additional B. burgdorferi isolates that span the range of natural variation. These sequences should allow improved understanding of pathogenesis and provide a foundation for novel detection, diagnosis, and prevention strategies.

Consider the spirochete: a minute, ancient creature. And yet it can cause so much distress. Something so tiny and simple can wreck such collosol havoc. Now perhaps the discovery of this microscopic external protein, only recently become visible to scientists, can help bring about healing.
Comments

NIH develops more sensitive test for Lyme disease

Reported in the June, 2010 issue of Clinical and Vaccine Immunology:

New Test May Simply and Rapidly Detect Lyme Disease

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health have developed a more sensitive test for Lyme disease that may offer earlier detection and lower cost. The details are reported in the June 2010 issue of the journal Clinical and Vaccine Immunology.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted to animals and humans by deer ticks. A skin lesion at the site of the bite is one of the first signs of infection followed by potential neurological, cardiac, and rheumatological complications upon entering the bloodstream. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends a two-step blood test for diagnosing the disease, however, several limitations include low sensitivity during the early stages of infection, significant time and expense, and an inability to distinguish between active and prior infection.
In prior studies the luciferase immunoprecipitation system (LIPS) test showed promise at detecting a variety of infectious agents including viral and fungal pathogens. Here, LIPS was evaluated for its ability to detect antibody responses to Borrelia burgdorferi proteins in blood samples taken from a patient group (some healthy and some with Lyme disease) as well as a control group. Results showed that diagnostic levels of 98% to 100% were achieved using LIPS in conjunction with the synthetic protein VOVO.

"These results suggest that screening by the LIPS test with VOVO and other B. burgdorferi antigens offers an efficient quantitative approach for evaluation of the antibody responses in patients with Lyme disease," say the researchers.

(P.D. Burbelo, A.T. Issa, K.H. Ching, J.I. Cohen, M.J. Iadarola, A. Marques. 2010. Rapid, simple, quantitative, and highly sensitive antibody detection for Lyme disease. Clinical and Vaccine Immunology, 17. 6: 904-909.)
Comments

Biotoxins test and chronic Lyme

Biotoxins created by the Lyme bacterial complex and released into the body can cause chronic illness, even when antibiotics are killing the spirochetes. You will recognize these illnesses by their other names: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Sick Building Syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and depression.

People who cannot naturally eliminate biotoxins develop chronic illness. About 20% of patients with Lyme disease, due to their hepa-type, are susceptible to biotoxin illnesses. However, according to Dr Richie Shoemaker and other biotoxin experts, the toxins can be eliminated and good health can be restored.

From biotoxin.info: "Many physicians feel that diagnostic tests for Lyme are unreliable, due to differences between strains of the bacteria, and the potential for co-infections with Bartonella, Babesia and/or Ehrlichia. A team of researchers at Boston University Medical Center (Cartwright, Martin Donta) discovered and patented (US Patent No. 6,667,038) the Bbtox1 neurotoxin. They reported that the effects of Bbtox1 were consistent with that of botulinium and other cytoskeletal toxins. Even so, there are no chemical tests for the disease-causing toxin B. burgdorferi produces and releases into human body, even as antibiotics are killing the bacteria. Without such tests, the medical debate over whether or not Lyme can be quickly cured has surged in recent years, provoking frequent battles in which physicians have attacked each other's credibility and integrity (and in a few cases, even their medical licenses). All too often, suffering patients have been left in the middle, essentially ignored by doctors who contend that their long-term symptoms aren't the result of Chronic Lyme, but of 'Fibromyalgia,' 'Chronic Fatigue Syndrome', 'depression,' or 'irritable bowel syndrome.'"

Testing for nervous system dysfunction can be done online. The Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) test is a pattern recognition test that Dr Shoemaker uses to help determine how the nervous system is functioning. According to Dr Joseph Burrascano, at least 70 - 90% of patients whose VCS test is abnormal feel better with treatment, while 30% of patients who test normal from the VCS test feel better with neurotoxin treatment.

When testing for Lyme infection, coinfections are often culprits that go undetected. Be sure to look for Bartonella or Babesia, which destroys red blood cells.

Dr Shoemaker and other Lyme experts agree that if you find elevated C4-A markers, and if symptoms are persistent beyond the initial antibiotic protocol that may indicate that a longer antibiotic treatment, possibly including intravenous antibiotic therapy, is needed. As he makes it clear in this video, you and your doctor will be the judge in whether or not you should use long-term antibiotics.




Comments

Healing Lyme Naturally

Healing Lyme Disease Naturally: History, Analysis, and Treatments
by Wolf D. Storl
Foreword by Matthew Wood
North Atlantic Books

In our interview with herbalist and teacher Matthew Wood, you may recall his mentioning a new book, Healing Lyme Disease Naturally, by Wolf Storl. Matthew wrote the foreword to this book, and talked to us about the role of the herb teasel (Dipsacus sylvestris) in healing Lyme. Dr Storl is an anthropologist and herbalist, as well as an engaging and prolific writer. He has published twenty-eight books, and his work has been translated into numerous different languages. He has also taught university courses in medical anthropology. As a result of a superinfection that resisted antibiotic treatment in an earlier illness he suffered, he was unable to take antibiotics when he discovered he had Lyme. For this reason, he was forced to turn to older methods of treating a serious disease. Dr Storl healed himself using teasel and supportive therapies, such as a light diet, exercise and hyperthermia.

This new book is not going to appeal to everyone. However, if you are interested in herbal medicine and lore, or if you're investigating alternatives to antibiotics, you may find it a captivating read, as I did. It will give you a comprehensive picture of Lyme and another spirochetal illness that resembles Lyme, and that is syphilis. (Matthew Wood and others have called Lyme "deer syphilis".) Through the wide lens of medical history, and illustrated with his own personal story, he shows us how these diseases have been viewed and treated in different cultures through time.

If you've become paranoid of picnicking by the lake, or you panic at the sight of a weird-looking spider on the wall, this book may help restore your sense of wonder about nature, and lose a little of the fear. After all, as he points out in a provocative examination of the advent of antibiotics after WWII, microbes are not the enemy. They are an integral part of us.

Early in the book there is a fascinating chapter about the stealthy make-up of the Borrelia spirochete. Research scientists have told me that the Borrelia bacteria is capable of dormancy, changing forms, and hiding from the immune system. I just never really understood quite how until I read this chapter, which explains the Borrelia bergdorferi and its "astonishing typical characteristics." Among them:

  • Depending on the conditions of their environment, borrelia can take on different forms. Besides the normal spiral or corkscrew spirochete form, they can cast off their cell wall and, held together by a thin pliable membrane, take on globular form. In this way, cell-wall-inhibiting antibiotics are rendered useless. In this spheric form (also called L-form) they are not recognizable for the immune cells; they have, so to say, no "features," no antigens, by which they could be recognized.
  • Borrelia can also encapsulate and go into dormancy within minutes. They seem to do this when their environment is polluted by antibiotics, for example. Until the environment improves for them, they can remain dormant for at least ten months without carrying on basic life functions such as metabolism or dividing. As long as they are metabolically inactive, antibiotics have no effect of them. The patient believes he has been finally cured, but then the symptoms rebound anew.
  • Borrelia can attach to host cell walls (mainly scar-tissue cells and even defense cells) and induce the cell to release its own digestive enzymes, which eat a hole in the cell wall. The spirochete then enters the cell, kills the nucleus, and wears the cell wall as a disguising cloak or mask. This is another way in which these terrorists of the microscopic world evade recognition by the immune cells.

Included in his telling of herbal lore and histories are intriguing ethno-medical stories. For example, did you know that at one point in the 19th century, doctors injected syphilitic patients with malaria? It seemed to help. About a third of the patients would get healed. Another third weren't affected at all, and the other third entered a long remission. Years later, in the 1930s, the medical establishment discovered why it helped: the malaria caused spiking fevers of 107 degrees, which killed the Borrelia bacteria. Hyperthermia has long been used by many different cultures to kill bacteria of all kinds.

Dr Storl raises and explores important questions, such as whether Lyme is a new illness, or an old disease that was diagnosed as other conditions. Aside from an examination of teasel and how it works in healing Lyme, dosages, preparation methods, and more, there are many practical tips included here, such as measures to take to protect against tick bites (essential oils such as cedar milk, clove oil, tea tree oil, peppermint oil and others may be effective when rubbed onto exposed skin areas), and an explanation of the way antibiotics such as doxycycline work.

Comments

Want a Lyme test that looks for antigens?

"We have to go on," says Tom. "We can't change yesterday, but the thing that keeps us going is that sooner or later we're going to catch that bug in time, and save someone from going through this pain."

Tom was sick and suffering with mysterious symptoms for nine years before a test finally convinced one of his doctors that he did indeed have Lyme disease. At that point, he began taking antibiotics. In the first month, severe Herxheimer reactions made him even more ill than he had been without treatment, but he continued for five months. Three years later, he now feels better in most ways. Occasionally, he has bad days that he attributes to the Lyme bug, but feels that for the most part, it is suppressed.

"I thought I was dying," he says. Hit by a massive anxiety attack while driving through Kansas, he experienced such debilitating vertigo that he had to pull the car over to the side of the road. "Everything was spinning wildly around me."

"I had lost track of the number of doctors I went to for help over those nine years. One doctor in Massachusetts, who I knew thought I was crazy finally told me that he thought I was crazy. He told me there was nothing wrong with me, and recommended psychiatric help."

"He told me that he thought I was an 'attention-seeker'."

I said to him, "Look, doc. I'm a concert pianist and a concert organist. If I want attention, all I have to do is book a recital. I don't need attention from you."

The test that finally clinched the correct diagnosis for Tom is a special kind of technique called Flow Cytometry. It is available at the Central Florida Research Laboratory, located in Winter Haven, FL. Instead of looking for the antibodies that build up in response to a Lyme Borreliosis infection, the Flow Cytometry technique finds the Borreliosis antigens directly.

Since Spring 2007, the CFR lab has tested several thousand people for Lyme disease. Blood samples arrive from locations all over the globe,  including all over Europe, where Lyme disease is known simply as Borreliosis.

In addition to testing people, CFR also tests animals for Lyme. Please refer to the CFR website for more information about the Flow Cytometric Lyme test for pets and people.

Central Florida Research Laboratory
Winter Haven, FL
Medical Director: Clifford H Threlkeld, DO, FCAP
Phone Number: (863) 299-3232
Fax Number: (863) 299-3355
Comments

Expert Interview Series: Carol Fisch Part 2

We've just uploaded Part 2 of the interview with expert Lyme disease researcher, advocate and activist Carol Fisch. Adjunct Professor Emeritus of Laboratory Science, Carol discusses her experiences studying and teaching about the bacterial complex, Borrelia burgdorferi. Her students often ask her to give a simple explanation of Lyme. Below is a bit of her answer. For a more in-depth discussion please login and listen to the entire interview.

A simple explanation of Lyme disease in not possible, as Lyme is not a simple disease. It is not just an infection with Borrelia burgdorferi the causative agent of Lyme disease. We are dealing with an illness complicated by multiple infectious agents; many of them are immune suppressive.

The immune system has difficulty in detecting the organisms that cause Lyme due to multiple factors, not least of all, its ability to change shape in order to survive -- surely one of its best tricks.

From the moment the Borrelia burgdorferi complex enters the body, it has the ability to clock itself into our own DNA proteins. When hit by anything threatening its survival, it can go into cell wall deficient (CWD) stages or into the cyst stage, where it is protected from antibiotics and the immune system. An activated immune system, where the body is trying to find an enemy and can't, leads to reactivation of Herpes Virus 1 - 6, and auto immune issues.
Comments

ILADS to train more doctors

As you are probably all too well-aware, we have a desperate need for more Lyme disease specialists. Driving or flying thousands of miles to see a Lyme literate doctor is not a luxury that most of us can afford.

According to this article in MediLexicon, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) has started a new training program to teach more doctors how to diagnose and treat chronic Lyme disease. With financial assistance from the New York-based Turn the Corner Foundation, the program aims to train 100 doctors over the next five years.

"With more than an estimated 200,000 of cases annually, Lyme disease has become the leading epidemic of our time," said Dr. Daniel Cameron, ILADS board president and internal medicine physician. "We need more physician-scientists who will be the future leaders in the treatment of Lyme and associated diseases."

Many physicians are not aware of the complexities of tick-borne diseases, and patients with Lyme symptoms are too often misdiagnosed, under treated or simply dismissed. The disease now known in the medical community as the Great Imitator can be a superb mimic of a hundred other conditions, especially if it hasn't been treated correctly when in the early stage. This is due to the complex nature of the Lyme bacteria, which has the capacity to hide from the body's immune system in order to protect itself. Doctors who are trained to recognize and treat Lyme symptoms will help increase awareness of the disease.

The ninth annual ILADS 2008 conference will be held on October 18-19 in San Francisco. Entomologist Willie Burgdorfer, who discovered the Lyme bacteria we know as Borrelia burgdorferi or Bb, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker. Several hundred physicians from across the globe will be in attendance. For Lyme researchers and medical specialists who treat Lyme patients, the conference offers an opportunity to collaborate and learn about each others' work.
Comments

Deer and mice survive Lyme

What should we take with a grain? Advice.

For example, I just read this: if your cat spends time outdoors and is acting lethargic, ask your vet to test for Lyme disease.

Um, buddy, I don't know about your cat....

I'm being a little facetious here. Of course it is wise to keep an eye on your pet. Our felines are strictly indoor beasts, so I worry less. However, if you've got a dog or a horse, a ferret or even a lazy outdoors cat, do what you can to protect them. Not only can Goldie or Jake fall sick from Lyme himself, he may also bring ticks, and their Borrelia burgdorferi poison, home to you.

Deer and mice, and many other critters, do not get sick from the Lyme bacteria for some reason. Deer can travel many miles in their lifetime, playing host to any number of vile little ticks, who can often be found around their neck or ears. When an infected tick bites a deer, the deer becomes part of the cycle. It doesn't get ill but it harbors the bacteria, which is then passed on to any uninfected ticks who come along to feed.

We can try, but we can't get rid of ticks. In fact, as the biodiversity of our environment shrinks, the tick population is exploding. And so are the numbers of ticks who are already infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, according to Dr. Eva Sapi, director of Lyme research at UNH, Connecticut. Deer and mice and the ticks they carry don't have as many natural enemies as they once did. Plus they're incredibly adaptive to change. These animals can survive in terrain that many of their predators cannot. Dr. Sapi says that another factor in the higher numbers of infected ticks may be the warmer temperatures in winter. Tick populations that used to die off in freezing temps now winter over.

Reputable Lyme researchers like Dr. Sapi and Dr. Alan MacDonald are working to figure out how to kill Borrelia burgdorferi, and how to cure Lyme. We hope you'll listen to these two skilled scientists, as well as the other Lyme experts who have participated in our Interviews with Experts series. Although the explosion of the tick population is unfortunate, it's also resulting in more media coverage on Lyme disease, and more money for researching Lyme as a serious disease.

We'll continue to scope out the most reliable, professional Lyme specialists available, and record them here for you.

Now, I'm off to wake up my lazy cat. Time for her to earn some kibble and catch this flying bug...
Comments