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Dr. Eva Sapi

Video--how to repel ticks

The harvest moon is rising outside my office window at this moment. It's full and bright and lovely. I noticed our neighbor's garden is burgeoning with ripe green peppers and orange squashes that need to be picked and enjoyed. Gardening and me don't exactly fit very well anymore -- not since Lyme revised my priorities. I leave it up to braver folks than I, who aren't as paranoid of tiny ticks. However, I still love the idea of gardening, and I'm always interested in discovering ways to do it safely.

How to Repel Ticks -- powered by eHow.com

This eHow video, posted by a gardener, explains the basics about how to protect yourself and your kids from ticks. She recommends the usual precautions, such as covering up head to toe with multiple layers of clothing. Then she mentions something I hadn't heard before. She suggests that on your hands and face, and any other body parts that aren't covered by clothing, you put on oil.

Her reasoning is that although the ticks are nearly impossible to repel once they've gotten onto your skin, they don't like oil because it causes them to slip, or reduces their success at sinking their sharp teeth into your skin. She says any kind of oil will do -- olive oil, lavender oil, baby oil, etc. She mentions DEET, as well, for its effectiveness as a tick repellent.

She also recommends putting your clothing into a hot dryer as soon as you come in from the garden, woods, forest, or wherever you may have been exposed to ticks. She claims that if you put your clothes into the washing machine, you risk setting them loose in the house. However, the hot temperature of the dryer should kill them.

I think I need to ask Dr Eva Sapi or some of our other Lyme experts about these claims before I believe them wholeheartedly. In our last interview, Dr Sapi told us that the biology graduate students in her University of New Haven Lyme research program couldn't even keep the ticks away using DEET, as they went hiking in the forest for a tick-gathering field trip.

What do you think? Have you ever used this oil trick? Is it effective?
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Bring testing into the 21st century

How many times have you wondered why the flawed technology of the Western blot and the ELISA are still the standard test for Lyme? Hasn't anyone figured out a better, more sensitive test by now? New research is being done with twenty-first century technology, such as genomics and proteomics. More sensitive tests mean that greater numbers of people infected with borrelia would have a chance to begin treatment before Lyme enters the later stages. A person who tested negative for Lyme with the Western blot may actually test positive when tested for certain protein markers.

Pamela Weintraub, author of
Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic, and senior editor at Discover Magazine, pulls no punches in a recent post about the IDSA's choice of panelists. The panel that has been assembled seems likely to merely reaffirm the old guard, and not consider new University-based scientific research.

"As someone who has traveled the country for six years interviewing these scientists to write my book,
Cure Unknown, I can tell you unequivocally that many of the top researchers at the top institutions in the world do not think the original IDSA panel got it right," writes Pamela.

"Are recommended treatment protocols truly curing most of those with early, invasive borreliosis, as IDSA contends?"

"The answers won’t be found in the twentieth-century technology of the Western blot, by today’s standards crude yet still trotted out by IDSA as evidence absolute that they are right. (The Western blot for Lyme is so flawed that even its major manufacturer says he has found numerous "band" patterns more accurate than the one in use today.) Instead of relying on flawed 20th century technology, we must look to the science of the twenty-first century, including state-of-the-art genomics and proteomics that allows for the sequencing of every gene and protein involved in every stage of Lyme. With evidence of this calibre we won't have to fight over the truth: We will know what's going on."


Stay tuned for more LDRD interviews with top researchers, such as Dr. Eva Sapi of the University of New Haven. Dr. Sapi directs the graduate studies program for research into Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
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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...
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NY Times article on Lyme disease

There's a lot to admire about Jane Brody's recent NY Times article on Lyme disease, A Threat in a Grassy Stroll. It will inform some who haven't ever heard of the disease (yes, they're out there), or people who had heard of it but know squat about it, such as my Aunt Louise, who called to offer her condolences after I was diagnosed. ("Unfortunately, nothing can be done, dear. Eating rosemary is supposed to help.") The article may even throw a wrench in the common nonsense that Lyme is "hard to get, and easy to cure," a myth that originally began where? With an article in the NY Times, by Gina Kolata.

Perhaps what I appreciate most about Brody's piece is that alongside the statistics and experts she quotes, she offers her own personal observations. After presenting the simplified version of the IDSA's and ILADS conflicting views on treatment, she says, "Although I cannot state with authority which side is correct, I have encountered enough previously healthy people who have suffered for months or years after initial treatment to suggest that there is often more to this disease than 'official' diagnostic and treatment guidelines suggest." The article's meta-text is twofold. First: Don't believe everything you read. And second: Don't discount your own observations.

My problems with the article are fairly nit-picky, and my bias in support of ILADS makes me frustrated to see this global organization of highly-educated physicians and researchers referred to as "a nonprofit medical group," but okay, they are a nonprofit medical group. I also think it's a little weak on Brody's part to suggest the ISDA simply agreed to revise its Lyme treatment guidelines, since in fact the IDSA faced criminal charges of antitrust if they refused to do so. Furthermore, Eva Sapi, PhD, director of Lyme disease research at UNH, says that even 40% DEET wasn't strong enough to repel ticks when she and her students ventured out on their tick-collecting walks through Fairfield County, CT. She recommends permethrin-saturated clothing instead. And Dr. Sapi says that ticks have been known to transmit bacteria after only one or two hours -- not the 24 hours that Brody says the vile little critters need.

Some of these transgressions, even if they're small, can spread damaging half-truths to the overall message about Lyme. The truth is, it's a serious disease. Easy to get, and hard to cure. The lucky ones are cured following the simplistic guidelines of the IDSA. But the numbers of sick people who don't get better on that protocol tell a different story. In all, I have to say it's exciting to see good reporters talking about Lyme, bringing their own observations into the mix, and not simply mouthing the words of the CDC.

Listen to the experts themselves, and use your own good judgment.
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20,000 cases? Sorry, you're wrong

Dear ABC Good Morning America,

Thank you for running the story on Lyme disease. However, I would like to challenge your reporters on one point. The number of new cases of Lyme per year is said by Lyme specialists to be ten to forty times higher than the 20,000 quoted by the CDC, and the number used in your report. Gross misdiagnosis and under-diagnosis is due in part to the notoriously inaccurate tests for Lyme that are currently in use by most infectious disease doctors in the US. These tests are the Western Blot and the ELISA.

The Lyme compound consists of the spirochetal Borrelia bacteria, plus any number of mycoplasma parasites and other pathogens. This compound is a particularly stealth bacteria that is able to evade the body's immune system, therefore protecting itself from the attack of antibiotics by drawing up a shield around itself, and hiding in various cyst forms throughout the patient's body and brain. The common tests for Lyme do not account for the sophisticated nature of this bacteria, according to researchers at the University of New Haven, Dr. Alan MacDonald and Dr. Eva Sapi.

Another reason for the misdiagnosis is the fact that no two Lyme patients present symptoms in the same way. In addition, it is not known how long the bacteria may lie dormant.

The irksome fact that the process of writing the IDSA treatment guidelines have been found to be in violation of the law has created quite a stir with patients of this devastating disease. The most profound problem is the existence of two standards of care for Lyme, which directly affects patients' health insurance and coverage of long-term antibiotics. ILADs physicians have told me that there are thousands of scientific models proving that Lyme can go chronic if undertreated or left untreated. The IDSA has ignored that scientific evidence. This is the heart of the Lyme debate.
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