Lyme can be difficult to diagnose, but its early symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and sometimes a telltale rash that looks like a bull's-eye centered on the tick bite. If left untreated, the infection can cause a range of health problems from arthritis and joint pain to immune deficiencies and a persistent cognitive fog. Most people recover with antibiotic treatment, but, for unknown reasons, some patients who suffer from a variety of Lyme-like symptoms find no relief from the normally proscribed therapy.
Although the majority of U.S. Lyme infections occur in the Northeast, incidence of the disease is growing across the country. Changes in climate and the movement of infected animals may be partly to blame. Last summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that as many as 300,000 Americans contract Lyme disease annually, a rate 10 times higher than previously reported. The new figure, the result of national laboratory surveys and a review of insurance information, reflects what has long been suspected: Lyme is not well diagnosed or reported by many doctors.
When someone is infected, it can take weeks before blood tests detect antibodies. Adding to the diagnostic headache, tests have been known to return false positives and false negatives. Current testing capabilities also have a hard time determining whether the infection has been cured.
An interdisciplinary Lyme Disease Working Group at the Stanford School of Medicine is exploring ways to improve diagnostic tests and medical understanding, evaluate the effectiveness of innovative therapies, expand clinical services and and build greater public awareness.
Studying a Mystery
Salkeld is a research scientist at Colorado State University and a former lecturer at Stanford who still does disease ecology research at the Stanfo
|Contact: Rob Jordan|