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Transforming research in Lyme disease

Transforming research in Lyme disease

In the last few years, Canada has witnessed a surge in cases of Lyme disease. “In 2015, there were 700 new cases of Lyme disease reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), up from 140 cases in 2009. Lyme is now being diagnosed in southern B.C., Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.”1

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to people and animals through tick bites. Ticks are small arachnids, the nymphal stage of which can be as small as a poppy seed, so the tick and its bite often go unnoticed.

The disease may be difficult to diagnose. It often presents with symptoms including chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes; symptoms that are sometimes associated with the flu. History of a tick bite can help narrow the diagnosis, but not all patients know with certainty if they have been bitten or exposed. Left untreated, Lyme disease may lead to arthritis, heart and nervous system disorders and recurring neurological problems.

The Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington region had the highest rates of Borrelia-infected blacklegged ticks in the country between 2006 and 2013,  and rates are expected to rise with ongoing changes to the climate and other contributing factors. Going forward, there is a substantial risk to Kingston’s population. 2

In response to this growing health concern, Dr. Kieran Moore, the Associate Medical Officer for the KFL&A Public Health Unit and Professor in our Departments of Family Medicine and Emergency Medicine teamed up with Dr. Anna Majury, Clinical Microbiologist at Public Health Ontario and Assistant Professor in our Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, and Dr. Gerald Evans, Chair of our Infectious Diseases Division to create a National Lyme Disease Research Network. In April, they hosted their inaugural meeting which brought together over 40 clinicians, scientists and public health officials from across the country.

The Lyme Disease Research Network is a first for Canada; until now, a forum for collaboration and knowledge sharing around this disease did not exist. Although still in its early stages of development, the network already has a wealth of expertise around the table: epidemiologists, entomologists, clinical microbiologists and basic scientists with the hope that this network will continue to grow, bringing Canada’s best minds and Lyme researchers to the table in collaboration.

The network stretches across the country, includes 19 research laboratories and has engaged federal, provincial and municipal levels of government. This broad scope of expertise and access to shared knowledge puts the network in an excellent position to generate new strategies to address the ongoing threat of this elusive and challenging disease.

I am thrilled about this initiative and very encouraged by their efforts to date. The Faculty of Health Sciences at Queen’s stands firm with our goal of creating a tick-borne illness pan-Canadian research group that strives for a better understanding of Lyme disease.

Please share your thoughts on the Lyme Disease Research Network by commenting on the blog, or better yet, drop by the Macklem House…my door is always open.

 

Thank you to Jen Valberg and Seth Chitayat for their help in preparing this blog.

  1. http://www.thecanadianpress.com/english/online/OnlineFullStory.aspx?filename=DOR-MNN-CP.fd2ecc20e5e940b0949cc42df19946ef.CPKEY2008111303&newsitemid=37426763&languageid=1
  2. KFL&A Public Health, KFL&A Public Health: Action Plan on Lyme disease. 2015, 12 p.

Inka Brockhausen

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 13:39

Hi!
Who would fund basic research on Borrelia Burgdorferi and how much money do you think would be available? Thanks, Inka

Inka Brockhausen

reznickr

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 13:39

In reply to by student

Like most disease areas, we will try to access funds from multiple sources, including scientific granting agencies, government and philanthropy.

Richard

reznickr

Bill Moore Meds ''62

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 13:39

Richard, I think it is impressive how Queen’s Faculty members are addressing the growing problem of Lyme Disease in Canada, just as health-care professionals and others have struggled with that problem and are gearing up for the Public Health threat of Zika virus in the US. Thanks for keeping those of us who are interested in Medical progress at Queen’s under your continuing leadership. Bill…

Bill Moore Meds ''62

Thanks Bill,

We all believe that Lyme disease is an important health concern and we are fortunate to have Dr. Kieran Moore on our faculty who as a public health expert, is galvanizing the community to respond to this challenge.

Richard

reznickr

Ralph Schneider M.D.C.M.

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 13:39

An elusive disease indeed. Not readily considered in differential diagnosis and when it is the identification serologically is problematic because there are several strains of Borrelia for which not all labs test. Having a national center is a laudable and overdue initiative to improve our diagnostic capability.

Ralph Schneider M.D.C.M.

Aptie Sookoo

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 13:40

It is my belief that with the collective energy, enthusiasm and expertise of all who participated in the April symposium Lyme disease will be better understood, diagnosed and managed. Indeed, patients will breathe more than a sigh of relief. Thanks! For inviting me…

Aptie Sookoo

Michael Morrow

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 13:40

Whatever became of the Lyme Disease Research Network, cannot find anything but Queens web posts about this? I would love to know more about this incredibly important organization and its efforts. Was this just a pipe dream? I certainly hope not.

Michael Morrow

Our Queen’s “National Network” held a follow up meeting in November 2016, in Kingston.
We tried to set priorities amongst the group to improve the epidemiology and surveillance of Lyme disease.
I don’t believe there is much traction or funding at the provincial or federal level at present to support these initiatives. I believe the federal government is about to release their federal framework and Ontario has released their ten steps approach.
A research group I belong to, which spring from our network, had another project rejected by CIHR. We had received one time, one year funding and had applied for an extension.
It is difficult to compete against the various infectious disease funding models and priorities.
So, we are holding it together with the support of KFLA Public health and anticipate another meeting to discuss diagnostic testing. I don’t have a date set as of yet.
Thanks for your interest. I wish we had better news!
Kieran

Jennifer Valberg

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