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Study Uses Lyme Patient Autopsy Specimens to Detect Borrelia Spirochetes

Frontiers in Neurology, 10 May 2021, published a study examining multiple molecular detection techniques to effectively identify Borrelia burgdorferi in the autopsy specimens of a patient with a history of neurocognitive disease. The individual was a post-mortem donor from the brain repository of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

The patient had a history of Lyme disease, including a well-documented erythema migrans rash with severe headache, joint pains, and a fever of 104° that seemed to have been treated successfully with antibiotics. Four years later the individual developed a neurodegenerative disorder resulting in a Lewy Body Dementia diagnosis.

The researchers describe the use of multiple overlapping techniques, such as immunofluorescence assay (IFA), RNA in situ hybridization (RNAscope), and PCR for detection of Borrelia spirochetes in post-mortem tissues. Immunofluorescent detection was found to be the most reliable method to detect spirochetes in fixed tissues.

The case study raises the question of whether B. burgdorferi may play a role in the development of Lewy body dementia. Future studies are anticipated to focus on testing more affected subjects in addition to more control subjects to confirm or disprove this potential link.

Study authors are S. Gadila, G. Rosoklija, A. Dwork, B. Fallon, M. Embers. The work was supported by the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation and the Lyme and Tick-borne Diseases Research Center at Columbia University established by Global Lyme Alliance and the Lyme Disease Association.

Study authors Drs. Brian Fallon and Monica Embers are the Co-Directors for the upcoming LDA-Columbia Lyme & Tick-Borne Diseases 2021 Conference on Oct. 2. 2021.

Read the full study in Frontiers in Neurology.

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