In Invisible’s latest medical education course, Monica Embers, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the Tulane National Primate Research Center and a leading expert in Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme) infections in non-human primates, discusses problems with the current two-tiered Lyme testing protocol and describes a promising new diagnostic approach that her lab is working on.
Most Lyme experts agree that the 30-year-old antibody testing approach that we use needs a serious overhaul. The tests don’t work well in the first few weeks after a tick bite because the immune system hasn’t yet produced measurable antibodies. And people who have the worst infections or compromised immune systems may have antibody levels too low to measure. These “false negatives” can lead to truly sick people being denied treatment and going on to become chronically ill.
After a brief overview on the clinical stages of Lyme disease and the two-tiered testing protocol, Dr. Embers goes deep on how immune system responses change during an infection and after treatment. Her strong recommendation: Start over with Lyme testing criteria using next-generation molecular detection equipment to define antibody profiles for all stages of Lyme disease, guided by a more statistically valid study design—because every positive Lyme case missed could result in a life lost to chronic disease.
Another must-see course from Dr. Embers is “Antibiotic efficacy for treatment of Lyme disease,” which presents emerging evidence from animal studies suggesting that the Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, is a clever trickster that uses multiple strategies to evade the immune system and survive long after an onslaught of the recommended course of antibiotics. And in her third course, “Chronic Infection and the Etiology of Dementia,” she lays out the evidence that the Lyme bacteria could be one possible cause of dementia.
The Invisible Education Initiative, funded by the Montecalvo Foundation, provides free, accredited Continuing Medical Education (CME) courses that focus on vector-borne and environmental illness within a One Health framework. These courses are available to clinicians and the public. To donate to this initiative and to learn about Invisible International, please go here http://invisible.international/give.