What Exactly is Lyme Disease?

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Interviewer: Doctor, talk about Lyme disease.  What that is doesn't seem to be very clearly defined, I guess, at least from my experience, and we can talk about that more.  Can you just talk about what Lyme disease is?

Dr. Bradley Bush: Sure.  Lyme disease is the United States' most common vector-born illness.  What that means, in this case, is that a tick bites a person, and it transmits an infective agent to that individual causing disease.

Lyme disease afflicts about 30,000 people every year.  I should say that's 30,000 reported cases of Lyme disease occur according to the CDC.  Many people believe that the actual rate is woefully under-reported.  Most of the time that is due to the fact that, one, patients may get bitten by a tick but they don't actually realize they've been bitten, so there's no bull's eye lesion. There's no tick. They don't feel it.  And number two, is that when people get tested, they're currently using an antiquated testing mechanism, western blot test.  

Western blot test has been around for many decades.  But, this particular test is only at 30-50% specificity rate, which means many people who test have actually been given false negative results.  Of course, that's not good if a person's actually been afflicted by Lyme disease, but their test report indicates that they have not been affected.

Interviewer: That's important.  Talk about what Lyme disease symptoms are because it's a very serious condition.  

Dr. Bradley Bush: Lyme disease can start off with just a simple fever.  Obviously irritability can occur in the area where they're bitten.  It usually causes what they call a bull's eye rash.  Eventually, it leads to more like flu-like symptoms in individuals.  

Sometimes this can progress at a rapid rate leading to other symptoms including neuro-borealis, which is where the Lyme disease actually goes from the peripheral of the body and enters into the central nervous system.  It can go into the spinal canal and the brain and cause incredible damage to the individual, putting them into a hospitalized situation.


Dr. Bradley Bush describes exactly what Lyme Disease is and some of the problems with the current method of testing for the disease.

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