Innovation deserves recognition, especially when it involves a bright new idea applied to an old problem like Lyme disease. While I am not a big fan of Duke University- I graduated from University of Kentucky-, I have to give these Duke scientists credit for their pharmaceutical engineering. By connecting a transport molecule to a light activated “berserker” molecule, they created a stealth warhead capable of destroying Lyme bacteria from the inside out. After sneaking the berserker molecule in, all they need is a little dose of light and bam, all the Lyme bacteria are dead. Impressive!
Lyme disease has been around for decades or more, but recent decades have seen a significant uptick in cases both in terms of numbers and geographical prevalence. Once thought to be restricted to the Northeast U.S. and those having visited that area, now even the CDC has to admit that it can be found across the mainland of our nation. Overseas, it may manifest as related species like borrelia afzelii or borrelia garnii instead of the primarily American, B. burdorferi, but the symptoms remain consistent.
As the number of acute Lyme cases grows, logic necessitates that more and more people have been exposed to the bacteria even if they experience no initial symptoms or do not get a true diagnosis for their so-called summer flu (which was really a Lyme fever without the rash). Without proper therapy, some of these never had any subsequent symptoms, but some do, later on, at a time not obviously connected to the initial tick bite. With such a time delay, diagnosis can be even more tricky, and too often Lyme gets overlooked.
If this growth weren’t enough to make the need for better therapeutics clear, combining these numbers with the reported symptoms of acute and chronic Lyme would make the need undeniable. Don’t get me wrong, we do already have some effective therapies and protocols which we see work in our Lyme patients. Combinations of antibiotics and various natural remedies do produce great results in our patients who get a proper diagnosis missed by other providers. The downside is that these therapies usually require a few months of swallowing a variety of pills and capsules to reach the endpoint of symptom resolution and lab verified recovery. Finding a faster therapy to shorten this recovery time will allow us to shift to the post treatment recovery phase earlier than usual.
Some of you may now point to various internet promoted Lyme therapies that promise such quick resolution, saying that we already have such rapid treatment options. I am aware of those therapies and protocols but have not seen any consistent success from those who went there. I have looked at the protocols as far as they publish them, but I haven’t been impressed. I am not saying that they have absolutely no science or that no one has ever recovered using those therapies. I am just saying that they are not the guaranteed magic bullets which they sometimes claim to be.
With that background, is this new method all that we have been searching for? In short: maybe. This method clearly transported a light sensitive molecule inside the Lyme bacteria and clearly resulted in the death of 100% of the bacteria after light was applied. In other words, it worked in an experiment inside a petri dish where light could penetrate all of the Lyme bacteria. The same bacteria inside our tissues such as connective tissues, brain, and elsewhere will not be so readily accessible to this light therapy. Light only penetrates so far into our bodies. Besides, that further studies must confirm that the therapy molecule does not enter our cells and cause the same berserker reaction- it could potentially kill our cells just as quickly as the Lyme. A mechanism to limit the molecular poison to Lyme bacteria and an adequate light delivery method are necessary before this is ready for the ‘limelight.’
Until then, functional medicine keeps our eyes open for such bright ideas so that we can help others return to healthier more abundant lives despite Lyme diagnoses. For now we keep applying the tools we now have and await the implementation of such new bright ideas as we help patients avoid the less than helpful quick fixes offered on the net.
Dave L. Carlson, Mark Kowalewski, Khaldon Bodoor, Adam D. Lietzan, Philip F. Hughes, David Gooden, David L. Loiselle, David Alcorta, Zoey Dingman, Elizabeth A. Mueller, Irnov Irnov, Shannon Modla, Tim Chaya, Jeffrey Caplan, Monica Embers, Jennifer C. Miller, Christine Jacobs-Wagner, Matthew R. Redinbo, Neil Spector, Timothy A.J. Haystead. Targeting Borrelia burgdorferi HtpG with a berserker molecule, a strategy for anti-microbial development. Cell Chemical Biology, 2023; DOI: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2023.10.004
Thanks to Science Daily:
Duke University Medical Center. “New antibiotic approach proves promising against lyme bacterium.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 November 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/11/231102162621.htm>.
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.