Lyme disease gene-mapping hailedMELVILLE, N.Y. – For months, Debra Oliver of Merrick, N.Y., bounced from doctor to doctor trying to find the reason for her headaches and joint pain. Doctors tested her for a range of illnesses and sent her to numerous specialists, but to no avail.
By: Sophia Chang, McClatchy Newspapers, INFORUM
MELVILLE, N.Y. – For months, Debra Oliver of Merrick, N.Y., bounced from doctor to doctor trying to find the reason for her headaches and joint pain. Doctors tested her for a range of illnesses and sent her to numerous specialists, but to no avail.
After six months of frustration, she wound up with a diagnosis of Lyme disease.
“I saw a segment on the ‘Today’ show when they were doing a segment on Lyme disease, and it rang a bell,” said Oliver, 42, who works in television production. “I did my own research and went to a doctor who is familiar with Lyme disease.”
He diagnosed Lyme disease and started her on a regimen of antibiotic treatment in November 2008, one that she continues, though intermittently, to this day.
Oliver hailed the research announced last week that has mapped the Lyme disease bacteria genetics, work that could help develop a faster diagnosis.
“Patients get so lost because they’re not diagnosed correctly,” she said.
Eva Haughie, president of the Manorville, N.Y.-based Empire State Lyme Disease Association, which advocates for treatment of chronic Lyme disease, said the current method of diagnosis is flawed. She’s had chronic Lyme disease since 1988.
Many infectious-disease experts question the existence of chronic Lyme disease, saying that the disease is almost always knocked out by a monthlong round of antibiotics. Any Lyme-like symptoms that persist after several months may come from other illnesses, said Dr. Robert Walsh of Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport, N.Y.
Haughie said she welcomes the genetic mapping research as a way to clear up such diagnostic confusion.
“As patients,” she said, “we are very grateful” to Luft and colleagues who mapped the Lyme disease genome.