Lyme on the Move

Sometimes researchers reveal background facts more intriguing than the mundane discovery which they publish in the headline, as this article about the spread of Lyme disease demonstrates. Their headline proclaims a model to predict where Lyme disease will next arise within our nation which might make you think “duh!”.
In comparing the records of 1992 until recent years with the topographical maps of areas, they discovered that they could predict the first cases of Lyme with proximity to forest and water sources like rivers. But of course, ticks such as Ixodes scapularis, the black-legged tick that they studied, need mammals like deer and mice which need shelter and water. While formal research studies are helpful, common sense could have explained this phenomena.
The intriguing bits of mundane background data comes in their opening section describing the prevalence of Lyme in America. One disturbing statistic states that the number of Lyme cases have tripled between 2004 and 2016. Research reports are meant to be dry and without emotion, but this commentary on the data can freely express a little gasp. This gasp comes from both the sheer increase in numbers and the disregard conventional medicine has for a growing threat within our nation.
The next bit of background date underlies the reason for the research itself: Lyme is spreading to new areas. Rather than remaining content in specific geographical boundaries, Lyme’s rising cases have spread into previously untouched areas. Whereas one might have once felt safe in those areas, now one must ask “is this tick on my arm a Lyme carrier or not?”
The last attention getting statistic arises in that 300,000 cases of Lyme disease per year are reported in the US. On one hand, this statistic works out as 821 per day or 34 per hour. On the other hand, these are only the CDC defined cases confirmed with their inadequately sensitive 2 step process culminating in a Western Blot. If those of us in the Lyme literate world are correct that number could be 50 to 100% more than the CDC recognizes.
While the discovery of common-sense explanations for Lyme disease spread may give scientific credence to theories, these background support statistics should prod you into action. Lyme disease, even by the CDC’s inadequate standard, knocks on more neighborhood doors each year. Conventional medicine’s refusal to acknowledge its arrival either by local spread or people’s propensity to travel and visit endemic areas continues to frustrate functional medicine practitioners. I still hear patients telling me, “But my doctor said we don’t have Lyme around here.” To help patients live healthier, more abundant lives, conventional medicine needs to start with accepting the facts presented.

Original Article:
Allison M. Gardner, Natalie C. Pawlikowski, Sarah A. Hamer, Graham J. Hickling, James R. Miller, Anna M. Schotthoefer, Jean I. Tsao, Brian F. Allan. Landscape features predict the current and forecast the future geographic spread of Lyme disease. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2020; 287 (1941): 20202278 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2020.2278

Thanks to Science Daily:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, News Bureau. “Model predicts where ticks, Lyme disease will appear next in Midwest states.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 December 2020. <>.

Cited Statistics:
Rosenberg R et al. 2018 Vital signs: trends in reported vectorborne disease cases—United States and Territories, 2004–2016. MMWR Morb. Mortal. Wkly. Rep. 67, 496. (doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6717e1)

Diuk-Wasser MA et al. 2012 Human risk of infection with Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease agent, in eastern United States. Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 86, 320–327. (doi:10.4269/ajtmh.2012.11-0395)
Eisen RJ, Eisen L, Beard CB. 2016 County-scale distribution of Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes pacificus (Acari: Ixodidae) in the continental United States. J. Med. Entomol. 53, 349–386. (doi:10.1093/jme/ tjv237)
Hickling GJ, Kelly JR, Auckland LD, Hamer, SA. 2018 Increasing prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto–infected blacklegged ticks in Tennessee Valley, Tennessee, USA. Emerg. Infect. Dis. 24, 1713. (doi:10.3201/eid2409.180343)
Hinckley AF et al. 2014 Lyme disease testing by large commercial laboratories in the United States. Proc. R. Soc. B 287: 202022788 Clin. Infect. Dis. 59, 676–681. (doi:10.1093/cid/ ciu397)

Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.

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