Lyme Disease – “The Great Imitator”
Lyme disease is similar in shape to mankind’s earlier experience with a spirochete that causes syphilis, the scourge of Europe for hundreds of years. Syphilis was called “The Great Imitator” because its symptoms mimicked so many other diseases. The same is true with Lyme disease.
“The Great Imitator” was first used with syphilis because spirochetes affect people in so many different ways. Their symptoms are all over the map! One Lyme patient can look like a case of rheumatoid arthritis, and another like fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis. Yet another can look okay physically but obviously has cognitive issues. Lyme-induced psychiatric illness is sometimes indistinguishable from other psychiatric diagnoses.
In July 2005, football fans were stunned by newspaper stories that police found Florida State University quarterback Wyatt Sexton doing push-ups in the street and reportedly saying he was the “Son of God.” Medical exams later found that Sexton was suffering from advanced Lyme disease. His physician, S. Chandra Swami, reported that the infection caused both neuropsychiatric and cardiovascular defects. (1)
In March 2009, Reverend Fred Winters was confronted outside his Illinois church by a 27 year man. After fatally shooting Winters, the man pulled out a knife and stabbed himself repeatedly. The killer’s mother explained that her son got Lyme disease 10 years earlier and it had triggered a series of erratic behaviors and mental difficulties.(2)
In fact, Dr. Alan MacDonald found B. burgdorferi DNA in 1986 in seven out of ten autopsy samples from the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.(3-4) This is an incredible study with support from very credible sources, including Harvard University. You can read it here.
MacDonald was also the first to document B. burgdorferi in fetal tissue, meaning the infection passes from mother to child in the womb. This means a child can be born with Lyme disease from the mother, not needing to be bitten by a tick.
Infection with B. burgdorferi for a long time allows the bacteria to replicate and wreak havoc throughout the entire body. The bacteria hide inside nerve cells and destroy them from within. B. burgdorferi also burrows into tendons and ligaments causing inflammation in the tissues and the nearby bone. B. burgdorferi infects the brain causing swelling and interruption of blood flow. In some patients, the bacteria invade the heart, resulting in heart block and myocarditis, life-threatening cardiac abnormalities. That is why it is called a “multi-system” illness.
Lyme can be mistaken for an estimated 350 conditions, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Bell’s Palsy
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- irritable bowel syndrome
- memory loss
- multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Parkinson’s disease
- rheumatoid arthritis
- various autoimmune disorders
Often, chronic Lyme disease patients get a diagnosis that actually hinders meaningful treatment when Lyme disease is the root problem. For example, when Lyme disease attacks the joints and a person receives a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, typically they are given a prescription for anti-inflammatory steroids. However, steroids suppress the immune system – exactly what you would NOT want to do if you knew you had Lyme disease. Also, we know that B. burgdorferi can induce secretion of aggrecanase, an enzyme that breaks down cartilage. (5) Steroids do nothing for that.
Let’s look a little more closely at another diagnosis on the list: autism. Bryan Rosner and Tami Duncan, co-authors of the book, The Lyme-Autism Connection, said:
“The epidemics of Lyme and autism have gone from mild ripples in the water to roaring, all-consuming tidal waves, destroying thousands of lives and tearing apart countless families!”
Duncan founded the Lyme-Induced Autism Foundation (LIA) in California. The LIA Foundation estimates the majority of children with autism may be also infected with Lyme disease. Informal studies put the number at about 30%. Clinicians are reporting up to 90% of the children with autism testing positive for B. burgdorferi.
At the LIA Foundation’s June 2008 conference, several experts suggested that at least 70% of the population has Lyme, and that it is being passed to children through congenital transmission, possibly through DNA. Dr. Dietrich Kinghardt said, “Most autistic kids have Lyme disease because most docs do not treat for Lyme first to knock it down enough that the white blood count can mount an attack and give you something to measure; that is why it is unknown.”(6)
People have asked why we spend so much time on Lyme disease. We believe it is going to be (and may be already) the epidemic of this century. When newer, more accurate tests are developed, we are going to find out. Fortunately, we think we have been given an answer!
- Lyme Disease Benches FSU Football Quarterback, Fox News, July 11, 2005
- CBS News; Edwardsville, Il; Lyme Disease Linked To Illinois Church Shooting-Preacher Shot To Death During Sunday Sermon; March 9, 2009
- Alan B. MacDonald, Plaques of Alzheimer’s disease originate from cysts of Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease spirochete, Medical Hypothesis, May 2006, Volume 67, Issue 3, Pages 592-600
- Alan B. MacDonald, Alzheimer’s neuroborreliosis with trans-synaptic spread of infection and neurofibrillary tangles derived from intraneuronal spirochetes, Med Hypotheses, 2006 Oct 19
- Behera AK, Hildebrand E, Szafranski J, et al. Role of aggrecanase 1 in Lyme arthritis. Arthritis Rheum 2006; 54:3319–29.
- M Budinger, Pasteur’s Legacy Feeds the Epidemics of Lyme and Autism, Townsend Newsletter, November 2008