Lyme Disease Goes Under The MicroscopeHelke Ferrie May 1, 2012
Public Demands Better Testing and Treatment for World’s Fastest Proliferating Disease
The ancient Romans, not known for their user-friendly policies, did know when to listen to the “vox populi”; even emperors felt the heat when a lot of people made a noise about the same issue. Rome at its height held about a million people. So, what does it take to get the McGuinty government to face facts about one of the worst infectious diseases in the world? How about 3.5 million Ontarians?
MPP Bob Bailey (Conservative, Sarnia-Lambton) presented a petition on November 23, 2011, requesting that Ontario’s antiquated Lyme disease testing protocol (developed almost 50 years ago and documented to be up to 95% false negative) be replaced by internationally recognized, scientifically validated, reliable, new, FDA-approved tests. This petition also asked that the government direct Ontario doctors to learn to treat the most devastating form, Chronic Lyme Disease, in accordance with up-to-date diagnostic and treatment protocols. The petition emphasizes that this tick-borne illness mimics – and may contribute to – catastrophic diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, arthritic diabetes, Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia, and that these facts were published since the mid-1990’s, and also appear in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). About one hundred Ontario municipalities formally endorsed this petition: that’s 3.5 million Ontarians.
The response from our Minister of Health, the Hon. Deb Matthews, was posted March 19th on the government website. It announced: “This government is committed to protecting the safety of all Ontarians and their families from preventable vector-borne diseases,” and it lists what the government has done since 2010. (Incidentally, in 2010 the book Ending Denial – The Lyme Disease Epidemic: A Canadian Public Health Disaster appeared and was distributed to all federal and provincial politicians, Canada’s medical associations, and our universities.)
On the website, the Minister describes governmental awareness campaigns such as “Let’s Target Lyme,” an information effort for the public and health care providers on tick recognition, symptoms, and protection measures (https://www.ontario.ca/lyme). Matthews wants the millions of petitioners to know that Public Health Ontario is doing everything possible in synch with the federal government. Finally, the Minister’s statement includes what she sees as a confidence-inspiring statistic: over the past three years “the number of cases of Lyme disease has remained fairly stable at approximately 100 per year.” We are to believe that this is due to increased testing and surveillance.
(Oddly, right across the border, Lyme cases are increasing exponentially, as new annual infection cases are being documented in the tens of thousands in most Eastern seaboard states; the same is true for Europe.)
In my view, the Minister’s response is appalling:
– it does not address the irrefutable, documented, facts outlined in the petition;
– it bypasses the core problem of Chronic Lyme disease;
– it ignores the key demand for current, scientifically validated and reliable testing which is not available in Ontario, forcing those who can afford it to go to the U.S.;
– it simply reaffirms that all is well with that bogus two-tiered ELISA-plus Western-blot test which MPP Bailey’s petition proposes to eliminate in favour of more accurate testing.
How can a government defend a test that is known to be 95% false negative? Even if it is supported by federal guidelines? Truly, Health Canada knows no evil, Public Health hears no evil, and the Ministry of Health speaks no evil.
Healthcare delivery is a provincial responsibility – so, the Lyme bug stops here. This inappropriate testing only serves the appearance of government diligence in the midst of the world’s fastest proliferating infectious disease – faster than tuberculosis and malaria (WHO 2008).
Those 100 cases cited by Matthews must have been identified by that antiquated ELISA testing protocol which unfortunately only recognizes foreign (outside North America) strains of Lyme bacteria; that means they fell into that potential 5% correctly detected group. Actually, given the soaring increase in all those chronic diseases listed in MPP Bailey’s petition, there likely are 95% more undetected Lyme infections happening annually which go untreated and, as the possibility of a treatable infection is simply not part of a differential diagnosis, these patients go on to become the victims of those other catastrophic diseases – the causes of which include Lyme (in theory, that would be at least another 1,700 cases annually).
What is really terrifying is the fact that Lyme is transmissible through the placenta as well as through sexual contact. The first documented case of sexually transmitted Lyme involved former U.S. President George W. Bush, Jr., who transmitted it to the former First Lady. So, despite the huge advances medicine has made in infectious disease prevention, detection, and treatment, here we go back to the 19th century when syphilis was the equivalent of our current Lyme disease epidemic.
The April issue of the Journal of Parasitology reported that “millions of Lyme disease vector ticks are dispersed annually by songbirds across Canada.” According to the report, samples taken from 42 bird species identified Lyme-infected ticks throughout Canada, all the way to the Yukon, causing Canadians to be exposed to this infection “locally without any history of travel” into endemic areas. More than 50 strains of the Lyme-causing Borellia burgdorferi are known to be strictly North American variants, but “Canadian testing laboratories have not yet considered geographic and genome sequence variation,” resulting in “clinicians [being] unaware of the genetic heterogeneity” of these bacteria; thus an accurate diagnosis is impossible.
In December 2010, the Journal of Clinical Microbiology published a severe critique of the testing protocol used by infectious disease specialists at Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto; this study was funded and co-authored by the Public Health Agency of Canada. In it, the authors discuss the case of a Lyme-infected child whose Canadian test was negative, but the Lyme-specific treatment was undertaken anyway on the basis of symptoms and history and continued regardless of the test result, which saved the child’s life.
My Personal Experience with Lyme
In 2010, when I co-authored and published Ending Denial for the Lyme Action Group and the national CanLyme organization, I never dreamed that I myself would become infected with Lyme in 2011 – as did my husband, and two of my granddaughters, and that I would also nurse a Chronic Lyme patient through her pregnancy. Nine months were spent worrying about the high probability of a brain-damaged baby being born, because Lyme spirochetes attack the developing fetal brain.
Astonishingly, the mother obtained three (!) blood tests showing the presence of Lyme over the course of three months in the first trimester, all by that outdated ELISA blood test. Since it only recognizes foreign strains, it appears she had been infected outside Canada.
The Canadian ELISA testing protocol cannot pick up infections contracted within Canada through those species’ variants that are endemic to North America. Our continental variants of Borrelia burgdorferi can be delivered through migratory birds, deer ticks, cats, dogs, moose, mosquitoes, male sperm, placental blood, human tears, and breast milk. Yet, the infectious disease specialist who saw our pregnant patient simply announced that she could not possibly have Lyme, even though the Ontario test results were in his hands. A fair guess would be that he did not know what to do about Lyme.
Any reader will wonder why only testing for foreign bugs qualifies under OHIP. This is because in Canada the two most definitive antibody responses, named bands 31 and 34 which confirm the presence of Borrelia spirochetes, are omitted from the ELISA testing protocol. Our pregnant patient had positive blood test results because she was infected with an Asian variant of Borrelia burgdorferi that the Ontario test does recognize.
In Ontario, a self-satisfied blind government appears to lead a medical profession kept blind too, with a testing protocol that ensures everybody stays purposefully ignorant because that test too is almost totally blind, occasionally able to recognize a few cases and thereby lull us all into a false sense of public health security. How are doctors supposed to know how to recognize Lyme disease when our testing protocol prevents recognition so perfectly? When they do see it, they are unprepared to treat it. All that sophisticated medical research published in the most prestigious international journals is kept out of medical practice by a government policy that ensures complex new scientific discoveries about Lyme do not confuse medical minds with the true facts about this messy disease. A friend of mine summarized current government policy beautifully: “All we need to knock off the human race is a Lyme tick to wreck our immune systems and a cell phone to fry our brains.” (See my April feature in Vitality.)
Fortunately, our family got help fast – through an ILADS-trained physician. As a result, our pregnant friend was treated with daily antibiotic shots during the crucial months of pregnancy when Lyme-mediated potential kidney failure in the mother needed constant monitoring with various antibiotics. During the first six months, ultrasound tests showed that the fetus was abnormally small, but as soon as the appropriate antibiotic protocol commenced, the baby grew fast to a normal size.
Finally, as the result of a homeopathic protocol created by a Lyme-literate homeopath, midwife, and professor of obstetrics, a rare and wonderful outcome was achieved: a baby grown in a Chronic Lyme patient’s body, but born Lyme-free, weighing 7 pounds, 9 ounces. The mother is in equally good health, and blood testing at six weeks post-partum showed negative for Lyme Disease. This success happened despite Ontario’s insupportable policy which misguides Ontario’s infectious disease doctors. All the thanks go to the research of Dr. Charles Ray Jones, an expert on Lyme in pregnancy who presented last October at the annual international ILADS conference, held in Toronto for the first time. And yes, the rest of us are also on the mend, through the use of naturopathy and antibiotics.
Who benefits from this insupportable government policy? Jim Wilson, founder and director of the national patient support group, CanLyme, agrees with Pamela Weintraub, the author of the famous book Cure Unknown; Jim writes that the consistent downplaying of the severity of Lyme disease only “benefits the global medical insurers, who underwrite all of our employee disability coverage and who do not want to incur the cost of this global pandemic, and the workers’ compensation boards across Canada. The pharmaceutical industry benefits greatly by inventing a new drug to treat each of the many symptoms of Lyme Disease, making billions of dollars globally while doing no research to treat the cause of the disease or to find better diagnostic tools.”
Public Activism and Scientific Research Leads to New Developments
Under the leadership of Jim Wilson, the Lyme-afflicted residents of B.C. have worked for more than two decades now to get the attention of their provincial government. “Naturopaths in British Columbia,” Jim writes, “who have passed the pharmacology exams have been allowed to prescribe and several have stepped up to the plate by diagnosing and treating patients who require antibiotics. We are hoping the situation is about to improve again in B.C. In 2010, the B.C. government, in response to pressure exerted by the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation and patients across the province, announced the opening of a Complex Chronic Disease Clinic. The clinic will focus on chronic Lyme Disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Lupus. Board members from CanLyme and representatives from the other disorder groups have played a limited but hopeful role in the set-up of the clinic… Interviews for the medical director position for this new B.C. clinic, housed at the B.C. Children and Women’s Hospital in Vancouver, were completed at the end of March, 2012. The clinic is to be operational by May 1st, 2012.”
Terrible as Lyme disease is, it is also true that some of the finest medical minds have figured out its deep and complex puzzles so that many treatment protocols have been developed, some of which do not require antibiotics. Most interesting is the work of Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, who has treated Lyme for decades and discovered that recovery by any treatment protocol requires that the patient be fully protected from EMF radiation. In the presence of cell phone radiation, for example, Lyme bacteria and their co-infections thrive and are able to evade therapeutic interventions. His Lyme patients must switch off their main electrical breakers at night, and avoid all forms of wireless technology while undergoing treatment. There is a wealth of information out there about healing from Lyme. (More information on the Klinghardt protocol can be found in the book Ending Denial.)
But the microbial arms’ race is far from over: we have recently learned from a Yale University researcher, Dr. Durland Fish, that there exists yet another variant of the Lyme-causing bacterium, called Borrelia miyamotoi, also found in deer ticks. Initially it causes much higher fevers than the traditional Lyme bacteria. In the U.S., the National Institutes of Health refused funding for its study repeatedly, until forced into action by Russian scientists who proved its existence, and then proved that it causes Lyme disease.
What will it take before Ontario gets real on this issue? One ray of hope comes from MPP Bailey and his colleague MPP Kim Craitor (Liberal, Niagara Falls) whose admirable response to this Ministerial stonewalling is to introduce a Private Member’s Bill in the Ontario legislature soon. This Bill is intended to make Lyme disease a political issue requiring a proper response – from every MPP representing those 3.5 million Ontarians whose petition was fluffed off.
Because Lyme disease affects more people than cancer, and left untreated could cost the healthcare system even more than cancer, this is a fiscal issue of the first order. Those of you who worked to get MPP Monte Kwinter’s Health Freedom Bill passed into law in 2000 know that health freedom is only health-promoting and freedom-protective to the extent that we refuse to tolerate policies that haven’t a leg to stand on and are a disgrace to public health. May is international Lyme Disease Month. Is it not high time that Ontario joins the rest of the world?
• H. Ferrie, ed. Ending Denial – The Lyme Disease Epidemic: A Canadian Public Health Disaster, KOS Publishing 2010. This book covers the politics, history, science, and proven therapies for Lyme disease in the context of the Canadian situation. All proceeds go to Lyme Action Group: $20 plus shipping and tax, call 519-927-1049
• For reliable testing and treatments contact https://www.ILADS.org
• In Canada visit the national group https://www.CanLyme.com
• in Ontario https://lymeactiongroup.blogspot.ca
• To support the private member’s bill contact MPP Bob Bailey at email@example.com and MPP Kim Craitor, Kim@KimCraitor.com
Helke Ferrie is a medical science writer with a master's degree in physical anthropology. Her specialty lies in investigative research into ethical issues in medicine and the politics of health. She started her investigative journalism career in the mid-1990s, looking at issues of medicine and environment. She has been a regular contributor to Vitality Magazine ever since. Helke has also authored several books on various subjects including: "Ending Denial: The Lyme Disease Epidemic", "What Part of No! Don't They Understand: Rescuing Food and Medicine from Government Abuse", and "The Earth's Gift to Medicine". Here are links to some of her works: http://old.vitalitymagazine.com/book-reviews/review/the-earths-gift-to-medicine/ https://www.amazon.ca/Ending-Denial-Updated-2013-Epidemic/dp/0988243733 https://thebovine.wordpress.com/tag/helkie-ferrie/ https://www.riverwashbooks.com/product/17162/What-Part-of-No-Dont-They-Understand-Rescuing-Food-and-Medicine-from-Government-Abuse---a-Manifesto-Ferrie-Helkie Helke has also been a regular contributor for the Vitality Magazine. Links to few of her articles: https://vitalitymagazine.com/article/the-tyranny-of-government-protection/ https://vitalitymagazine.com/article/success-story-how-i-recovered-from-lyme-disease-and-hypothyroidism/ https://vitalitymagazine.com/article/getting-the-lead-out/ Helke Ferrie now lives a retired life and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org