COVID Impacts on Lyme Disease Reporting

In a new study published by the CDC, Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on Reported Lyme Disease, United States, 2020, authors describe how the impacts of COVID-19 might have influenced Lyme disease case reporting in 2020. Investigators explored 4 data sources to assess how the COVID-19 pandemic may have influenced reporting of Lyme disease cases in 2020. Surveys that were conducted indicate that residents in the United States spent more time in the outdoors in 2020 than in 2019, but that reports of tick bite–related ER visits and Lyme disease laboratory tests were fewer. Authors indicate that although outdoor exposures were higher, case reporting for Lyme disease in 2020 may have been “artificially reduced” due to changes in people’s medical care seeking behavior in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, many health departments were limited in resources to investigate Lyme disease case reports in 2020 due to the increased workload created by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Read the full text article here

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Moderna Vs. Pfizer: COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness

Findings of a recent study, Comparison of two highly-effective mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 during periods of Alpha and Delta variant prevalence, show that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine appears to have a higher effectiveness rate compared with the Pfizer vaccine. This observational study was conducted from a Minnesota patient cohort in July 2021. Both vaccines appeared to be highly protective (Moderna 86%, Pfizer 76%) from January to July 2021, which was the period of time when the Delta variant first became predominant. However, the researchers observed the rates of protection for both vaccines dropped during the month of July 2021, and that the Moderna vaccine maintained higher protection than Pfizer (Moderna 76%, Pfizer 42%). 

Investigators of this observational study conclude that further evaluation of the mechanisms of the two vaccines are warranted to understand the difference in protectiveness.

Read the Medpage news article here

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Read the full text MedRxiv observational study article here

Note: This article is a preprint and has not been peer-reviewed [what does this mean?]. It reports new medical research that has yet to be evaluated and so should not be used to guide clinical practice.


Prominent Researchers: The State of Lyme Disease: Progress & Challenges

Top Lyme disease researchers from across the United States have collaborated on a new publication, Recent Progress in Lyme Disease and Remaining Challenges. In this review article, researchers summarize the state of Lyme over the past 5 years, addressing major scientific advances as well as identifying remaining challenges and needs. Topics covered in the publication include diagnosis, testing, signs and symptoms of disease, treatment, genomics, vector transmission, pathogenesis, persistence of disease, and prevention and funding. The long-term impact of Lyme disease on patients has historically been controversial, however the authors present escalating evidence that supports the idea that a great number of patients experience persistent symptoms following treatment, and that this number continues to grow. 

Necessary funding to support advancement in the scientific and clinical understanding of the disease, or to develop and evaluate innovative approaches for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment has been greatly lacking in the research community, and authors highlight the urgent need for more support. Although Lyme disease is a growing public health concern globally, this review article focuses primarily on the condition and resources of the United States.

Read the full review article here

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Borrelia mayonii Spirochetes Observed on Blood Smear

B. mayonii is a relatively new species of Lyme causing pathogen that has only been detected in the Upper Midwest of the United States. It is considered a rare cause of Lyme disease and may frequently go undetected. 

Mayo laboratories recently observed that spirochetes of the pathogen Borrelia mayonii can occasionally be visualized on routine blood smears, much like spirochetes of the Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever group. B. mayonii spirochetes are found at high levels in peripheral blood, whereas B. burgdorferi spirochetes are not. This understanding may raise awareness and recognition of the Lyme disease causing bacterium, and could lead to more consistent and accurate diagnosis of this cause of Lyme disease.

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T-Cell Exhaustion: Penn Med Investigation

In a recent press release, researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have discovered that T-cells, which are important fighters in the immune system, not only become “exhausted” from fighting cancer or viral infections, but they remain “exhausted” many weeks after these exposures. According to the press release, “exhaustion” leaves durable “epigenetic scars” in T cells that restrict their ability to support immune responses. T-cell function is critical to the immune system, especially in prolonged battles against cancers and viral infections. The findings of Penn researchers study lead to a need to discover how to reverse the “epigenetic scarring” that occurs in order to rejuvenate T-cell function after exposure to cancer and viral infections.

The findings of this study are published in Nature Immunology

Read the full press release here

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COVID in White-tailed Deer?

In a recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) serum samples were analyzed from free-ranging white-tailed deer for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.
Researchers found that a cohort of white-tailed deer populations from Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania were exposed to SARS-CoV-2. The USDA-APHIS has published an informational brief that addresses both questions and answers regarding these findings. USDA-APHIS also expresses the need for more research on the significance of the finding of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in free-ranging white-tailed deer,  as well as what, if any, potential impacts this may have on overall deer populations, other wildlife species, and humans.

Read the full publication here

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Ehrlichiosis Infection Following Organ Donation

In a recent article, investigators describe multiple cases of organ transplant derived Ehrlichiosis infections in donor recipients. Two cases of ehrlichiosis were reported to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for investigation in 2020. These two kidney recipients from a common donor developed fatal ehrlichiosis-induced hemophagocytic lymphocytic histiocytosis (HLH). Additionally, two kidney recipients and a liver recipient from another common donor developed ehrlichiosis, and  were all treated successfully. Investigators suggest that donor-derived ehrlichiosis should be considered by clinicians when evaluating recipients with fever early after transplantation after more common causes are ruled out, and cases that are suspected for Ehrlichiosis should be reported to the organ procurement organization (OPO) and the OPTN for further investigation.

Access to full article here.

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Maryland Department of Health Warns Doctors About Lyme

In a letter to physicians, the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) warns doctors to pay attention to Lyme which is the most frequently diagnosed tick-borne disease (TBD) in Maryland residents (1400 cases 2019). The MDH also cautions them to report other TBDs, which it specifically names. The letter also points out the similarities of Lyme symptoms to COVID 19 symptoms and reminds providers of obligation to report the required TBDs.

Tick bite prevention tips are offered, and a Maryland Tick Identification Service is provided in the letter. https://health.maryland.gov/phpa/OIDEOR/CZVBD/Pages/Tick-Identification.aspx

Read full letter here  

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Cohen Foundation Funds Establishment of the Bartonella Research Consortium


According to the Tulane news, a three-year, $4.8 million initiative funded by The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation, will establish the Bartonella Research Consortium with the goal of developing a novel treatment for bartonellosis. There are over 40 known Bartonella species/subspecies and at least 17 of these species/subspecies have been associated with a spectrum of debilitating disease symptoms in humans. 

The Consortium is composed of key infectious disease researchers including Drs. Edward B. Breitschwerdt, Monica E. Embers, Timothy A. Haystead and Ricardo G. Maggi that will work collaboratively to study the complex and poorly understood Bartonella pathogens to provide patient relevant solutions to benefit both animal and human health. Funding for this research initiative draws on the combined strengths of research laboratories located at Duke University, North Carolina State University and Tulane University. 

Read the full Tulane News article here

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Chronic Lyme Associated With Loss of Contrast Sensitivity

In a recent article published in Translational Vision Science and Technology, researchers found that contrast sensitivity impairment was associated with patients suffering from chronic lyme. 

According to the Online Medical Dictionary, contrast sensitivity is defined as “The ability to detect sharp boundaries (stimuli) and to detect slight changes in luminance at regions without distinct contours.”

Investigators describe that contrast sensitivity has been found to be impaired in a variety of ocular conditions including cataract and retinal degeneration, as well as in neurologic diseases, such as multiple sclerosis;  and loss of contrast sensitivity may also indicate specific or nonspecific deficits in neurologic and/or cognitive function. In this article, it was also found that contrast sensitivity impairment was marginally associated with patients exhibiting neurologic abnormalities and cognitive impairment, but with no other ocular complaints. Investigators further state that these links may be a marker of illness severity, but that it is unclear if CS testing would be a useful gauge of improvement over time, suggesting a need for further studies. 

Read full article here

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