Medical Debate over Lyme Disease

The existence of Lyme disease, and the initial treatment response, is universally agreed upon by the medical community.  The hard scientific evidence regarding the structure and behavior of the bacteria coming from dedicated labs is impossible to refute. However, the chronic nature of many symptoms after lengthy antibiotic treatments proves to be a bone of great contention.

Lyme disease experts are divided into two polar opposite camps, and view each other with disdain and mounting frustration. The more conventional camp (who cling tenatiously to their view despite mounting evidence to the contrary) claims that Lyme is an easily cured infection that can cause long-term complications in a very small minority of patients. Symptoms after treatment, no matter how painful or disabling, are written off as non-existent or part of some other condition which has no known cause or cure – chronic fatigue, and fibromyalgia being two of the most common diagnosis. 

The other camp (who are determined to help their patients, take time to research the mysterious infection and follow their intelligent observations) contends that Lyme disease is a clever organism which often outlasts conventional treatment.  These doctors implement a complex mix of vigorous and extended antibiotic therapy, as well as diet, exercise and a wide range of nutritional supplements for chronically afflicted patients. This group of doctors has withstood enormous pressure from their colleagues in order to help their suffering patients.

To make matters worse, a great majority of health insurance companies, caught between the two camps, have written their claim policies to reflect the conservative view, leaving extremely ill Lyme victims out in the cold.

Because of the controversy surrounding Lyme Disease, suffering patients are bounced from specialist to specialist with their crippling symptoms. Often, they've received vague diagnoses, told they might be in the early, hard-to-detect stages of Multiple Sclerosis or Alzheimer's disease or that they have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia.  Worse yet, many patients are told that their affliction is all in their head.  The fortunate ones eventually find a Lyme Literate Doctor who begins treatment, but soon afterwards their insurance company stops paying for their treatment.

Dr. Joseph Burrascano is a leading authority in treating tick-borne diseases. During his 25 years as an Internist in East Hampton, N.Y. (an area hyper endemic for Lyme disease), he treated more than 11,000 patients from 46 states and 16 countries. He is the author of the ILADS Lyme Diagnosis and Treatment Guidelines, in addition to publishing numerous papers in medical journals. He is currently heading an ongoing research project developing a universal Lyme and associated diseases database.  Dr. Burrascano also serves as Medical Director for Advanced Research Corporation in St. Petersburg, Florida. His diagnostic skills were recently featured on the Discovery Channel Series Medical Mysteries in “The Laura Zeller Story.”

Dr. Burrascano sums up the situation as follows:

"There is in this country a core group of university-based Lyme disease researchers and physicians whose opinions carry a great deal of weight. Unfortunately, many of them act unscientifically and unethically. They adhere to outdated, self-serving views and attempt to personally discredit those whose opinions differ from their own. They exert strong, ethically questionable influence on medical journals, which enables them to publish and promote articles that are badly flawed. They work with government agencies to bias the agenda of consensus meetings and have worked to exclude from those meetings and scientific seminars those with ultimate [sic] opinions."

"They feel that when the patient fails to respond to their treatment regimen, which is a common occurrence, it is not because the treatment has failed, but because they have developed a new illness, what they call the 'post Lyme syndrome.' They claim that this is not an infectious problem but a rheumatologic or arthritic malady due to activation of the immune system."

"Because of this bias by this inner circle, Lyme disease unfortunately is both under-diagnosed and under-treated in this country to the great detriment of many of our citizens."

For further reading on the medical debate:

From Columbia University Magazine:

Columbia University Lyme Disease Research Study:

The following article was published by The New York Times on May 23, 2000




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