Dr. Nevena Zubcevik, co-founder of “The Dean Center for Tick Borne Illness” at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital/Harvard Medical School and Invisible International’s Chief Medical Officer, has spent a decade successfully treating patients with Central Nervous System (CNS) Lyme disease, aka “neuro-Lyme.” This week she shares her best clinical advice in the first of three medical education courses covering neuro-Lyme symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment strategies.
Unfortunately, the population of chronic neuro-Lyme patients has grown steadily over the last few decades, primarily because of systemic delays in early diagnosis and inefficacy of treatments. It’s sobering to realize that the standard screening test misses up to 89% of early infections (Steere et al, 2008). And after treatment, many patients reported new-onset patient-reported symptoms that increased or plateaued over time. At 6 months, 36% of these patients reported new-onset fatigue, 20% widespread pain, and 45% neurocognitive difficulties. (Aucott, 2013)
Dr. Zubcevik’s first course describes typical neuro-Lyme clinical presentations and discusses the mechanisms of nerve injury that are caused by Lyme disease bacteria. She emphasizes that these injuries are complex but treatable.
Based on her experience as a Harvard-trained, board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, Dr. Zubcevik stresses the importance of a multidisciplinary “all hands on deck” approach for these patients, many of whom have serious deficits in memory and brain functioning. She recommends that coordination of care —appointment management, home support, physician referrals, and insurance coverage—be an integral part of any treatment plan. She says that mental health support and an anti-inflammatory diet are also key to a patient’s recovery.
The next two courses will dive deeper into how the Lyme bacteria damages the neurological system and dysregulates the immune system. It then lays out detailed diagnosis and treatment strategies for physicians.
This free, accredited Continuing Medical Education (CME) is brought to you by the Invisible Education Initiative, funded by the Montecalvo Foundation.