NOT JUST TICKS, NOT JUST LYME – VECTOR TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS (VTI’s)
After assessing and treating 200 individuals from across Canada from 2006-2013, I have reason to believe that there are infections transmitted by various vector insects (Vector Transmitted Infections/VTI’s) that are poorly recognized and treated. The general public is already aware of malaria, West Nile Virus, etc. but the ‘new’ batch of VTI’s is poorly known and recognized.
Diagnoses of these individuals were based on exposure, symptoms, physical exam, and response to trial antibiotics or herbal preparations. Treatment was continued until symptoms were resolved or condition stabilized. Few had criteria for a reportable infectious disease and most had already been seen by a physician/specialist.
An independent survey/study by Corporate Research Associates of 75 patients that I treated reported that 64% were significantly better and 33% were moderately better. Overall symptom severity was significantly improved. Treatment time was from 6 to 18 months for 47%; others required more time, some less. If the patient was seen early after possible infection, the time was shorter. If the patient was seen after years of possible infection, it was difficult and sometimes impossible to fully treat.
Of these 75 patients, only one out of 42 tested had a positive ELISA (screening) test and 16 out of 25 tested had a positive Western Blot (more definitive) test by IGenX lab in USA. Surprisingly, 22 (30%) had brain MRI’s showing signs of possible infection; and only a couple of these were reported by the radiologist as such. Most were reported as possible MS without a differential unless I suggested considering the possibility of infection.
Also, my clinical impression was that there were a large number (80%) of possible Bartonella infections as well as Lyme disease (30%). Based on subtle symptom differences that I learned, I was able to differentiate between the most common bacteria: Borrelia (Lyme disease), Bartonella (Cat Scratch Disease), and Babesia (like Malaria). There can also be other bacterial, rickettsial and viral agents.
A recent study by biologists showed that of 150 ticks tested in the Halifax, NS area, 75% had a Bartonella group infection. Bartonella is also becoming more common in cats/dogs. It can be transmitted from infected cat saliva by licking as well as by biting and scratching. Fleas, mites, bedbugs, flies and ticks can spread it between animals, and from animals to humans.
Another recent study on mosquitoes in the same area revealed Bartonella species infection in 55% of the 200 tested
There has to be a national increase in Vector Transmitted Infection knowledge! We need more testing of vector insects and improved testing of humans.
Present guidelines from the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) and resultant adherence to same by specialists appears unsatisfactory: ELISA testing is inadequate; Western Blot (if one can get it) is better; limiting a course of antibiotics to a specific time period (4-6weeks) appears to result in incomplete treatment; delayed/incomplete treatment can result in irreversible symptoms; and lack of recognition of other vector infections can result in improper treatment. All of this, plus poor MRI recognition has likely negatively impacted on many lives across Canada.
It is my observation that many people may be misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, mental illness, cardiac problems and other conditions when in fact they may have contracted a vector transmitted infection.
History of exposure (and 50% don’t recollect a tick attachment), early symptoms (and 50% don’t have a target lesion), and subsequent increase in symptoms in a previously healthy person, should be taken more seriously. More awareness of VTI’s caused by more than ticks, early detection, clinical diagnosis, trial treatment and/or more complete treatment are all required. Brain MRI’s may be more helpful than realized. In addition, designating endemic areas may hinder recognition of possible infection.
Finally, there may be concern regarding these infections being spread by saliva, sexual intercourse, blood transfusions, and mother to fetus.