As you likely have heard, the diligent scientists at the Mayo Clinic have discovered a variant on the organism that causes Lyme disease, aka, Borrelia burgdorfei (Bb). This new spirochete was found when a lab test called a PCR was done on a young boy with profound weakness, fever, and a rash. But the test showed a mysterious organism similar to but different from the Bb bug transmitted by deer ticks. A new species!
Dr Bobbi Pritt told the Mayo story as it unfolded today at the Lyme Disease Association conference in St Paul about this new pathogen announced last year. The drama, the discovery, the naming of the new pathogen, the drama, the analysis of specimens (>24,000) from all over the country to see if this bug existed outside of Minnesota or Wisconsin, the drama…did I say The Drama? Although certainly we should accord Dr Pritt and her team all of the deserved accolades associated with scientific discovery, the irony of the Mayo Clinic offering a shred of attention to Lyme disease is, well, pretty rich.
Most of the physicians who care for those unfortunate enough to have developed the chronic form of Lyme in the Midwest have had the very negative experience of a Mayo Clinic “consultant” telling a patient that “it is all in your head”. In fact there are numerous stories of patients being referred to Mayo for a mystery illness — fatigue, pain, brain fog, mood changes, etc — tested with standard methods for Lyme disease, and being told that they simply do not have it. The joke actually is that if you even mention the word, “Lyme”, once there, you will be escorted out. Rude does not begin to describe the collective experience of many patients seen at Mayo who later are diagnosed with Lyme disease.
But here we are with the Mayo pedagogy about Lyme. The questions and comments from the audience to the Mayo Dr were short and polite. No one here was about to exhibit the kind of boorish behavior to which Lyme patients are treated routinely in Rochester. The speaker explained her thoughts on the “gold standard” of diagnosis for Lyme disease: erythema migrans rash, acute illness, fever, and a + standard 2 stage test for Bb. In polite silence there were no further questions. But I thought perhaps instead of naming the new pathogen about themselves (Mayonii), they might have called it Borrelia naivete.