Mothers fight Lyme disease

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Ticks May Be Culprits for More Diseases
Horse flies, Deer flies and Lyme
mating-smell decoy to lure the ticks to their deaths

FEATURE ARTICLE from THE STAMFORD ADVOCATE, 12-12-00, By Susan Abram, Staff Writer

`` GREENWICH, CT -- The hustle and bustle inside Debbie Siciliano's home has little to do with holiday cheer at the moment.

Between sips of coffee and tea, the morning slips by as piles of informational pamphlets and copies of the latest news articles and statistics change hands. Updates are exchanged on whose child feels better and who is ill again.

The ticks that carry Lyme disease may be hibernating under leaves and soil during these chilly winter months, but the dozens of women involved with the Greenwich Lyme Disease Task Force remain active.

They are committed to raise awareness of Lyme disease and are particularly concerned with children, who are at the highest risk of being infected.They joke and call themselves the "soccer moms of Lyme disease," but there's nothing funny about their group.

Instead of packing their children into SUVs and heading for a field, they take long drives upstate to watch their sons or daughters receive intravenous drug treatments, attend meetings with teachers, organize informational forums and work with state and local health officials in an effort to make sure the experiences they have had are not repeated.

Some do this while they are ill themselves."What's brought most of us here is we are mothers with children who are affected, and we can't watch the suffering anymore," said Siciliano, co-president of the group.

Along with Siciliano, every woman involved either has been infected or affected by Lyme disease. Their stories include accounts of children afflicted with fatigue, depression, joint aches, memory loss and blurred vision - common symptoms of Lyme disease.

They have watched children who were once accepted into gifted classes later moved into special education programs because of memory loss.

Darien resident and nurse Marie Ciasullo was diagnosed with Lyme disease seven years ago. Her three children have it as well. Their symptoms ranged from fevers and stomach aches to joint aches.

She believes her two youngest children were born with it.The theory that Lyme disease can be passed to a fetus in utero is controversial, said Dr. Michael Parry, director of infectious diseases at Stamford Hospital.

"My whole life began to revolve around this illness," the 41-year-old Ciasullo said. "This is not where you expect to be at this time of your life."Ciasullo and her 10-year-old son were treated intravenously, a yearlong procedure. Her other children have taken antibiotics as well.

"We've been through intravenous and hyperbolic oxygen treatments," she said. "I'm still on antibiotics. I have good days and bad days. I've had improvements, particularly cognitive improvements. It used to take me two hours to make two sandwiches for school lunches."

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Ciasullo said that when she first showed symptoms and believed she had Lyme disease, some physicians did not take her seriously. She was told to see a psychiatrist ...

Working with the Greenwich group, Ciasullo decided to begin a task force in Darien. That has been a goal for the Greenwich task force - encouraging the formation of other groups statewide.

"We want to help every town in the state, and anyone who is suffering," said Diane Blanchard, co-president of the task force. "We want teachers to work with children with Lyme, to understand them better. We want the school curriculum to include how to teach prevention."

Since 1998, the women have worked together, informing the community about how to protect families and pets from tick bites. Through their efforts, they have attracted some corporate funding and celebrity attention, including former Greenwich resident and talk show host Rosie O'Donnell.

They also have worked with Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. Last year, Blumenthal supported legislation that requires insurance companies to cover medical expenses of those with Lyme disease."

It seemed to me another very alarming thing was how HMOs had the power to interfere with judgment that should be made by patients and physicians," Blumenthal said. "It's a disease that affects everyone."

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium carried by infected deer ticks. If a tick is not immediately removed, it can transmit the bacteria that causes the disease. Symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, neck stiffness, jaw discomfort, muscle and joint pain and swollen glands, are generally treated with antibiotics.

Local health departments in Greenwich, Stamford and Norwalk urge residents to bring in live ticks found on the skin or in the home to be tested.

This year, 6,000 ticks were submitted to the Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven. Of those, 1,398 tested positive for the bacteria. Of the 662 ticks sent from Greenwich, 180 tested positive; from Norwalk, 96 out of 390 tested positive; and from Stamford, 155 out of 626 tested positive, according to the Agricultural Experiment Station.

Connecticut last year continued to have the highest reported rate of Lyme disease in the country. Based on statistics by the state Department of Public Health, the number of cases last year rose in almost every Fairfield County municipality.

In 1998, Greenwich reported 48 new cases of Lyme disease and 88 new cases in 1999. In Stamford, there were 60 cases in 1998 and 82 in 1999. In Darien, 15 cases were reported in 1998 and 28 were reported in 1999. New Canaan reported 27 cases in 1998 and 48 in 1999. There were 36 Norwalk cases in 1998 and 54 in 1999. Fairfield County reported the most cases in 1999, with 1,078 new diagnoses of Lyme disease.

But the number of cases could be higher."The numbers are clearly underrepresented," Parry said. "If doctors find a case, they treat it and that's it. They may not report it. They already have too much paperwork."

Also, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a Lyme disease diagnosis must be based on conclusive evidence - the presence of the bacterium or evidence of antibodies that fight it off.

But the blood tests for the disease are no more than 40 percent accurate, health officials have said.

Concern over West Nile virus over the past two summers has diverted attention from Lyme disease, some health officials say. The mosquito-borne virus detected in the area for the first time in 1999 has caused a number of deaths.

"We're going to take on a more aggressive campaign," said Mary Shanahan, medical educator for the Stamford Health Department, whose documentary on Lyme disease features the Greenwich task force.

Meanwhile, the women of the Greenwich Lyme Disease Task Force are busy preparing for a spring benefit. They have just become affiliated with the National Lyme Disease Task Force, based in New Jersey. They said they will continue to work to increase awareness and press for more education in schools. "We don't want what's happened to our own families to happen to anyone," Siciliano said. ''

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NEWS ARTICLE from REUTERS, 4-20-01, By AliciaMarie Belchak

``Ticks May Be Culprits for More Diseases

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Ticks may spread more diseases than previously thought, California researchers have found.

Ticks carry bacteria that cause disease, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. New evidence published in this month's [4-01] "Journal of Clinical Microbiology" implicates ticks in other maladies, including cat scratch fever. This infection, as well as another illness known as ``trench fever,'' are caused by members of a family of bacteria known as Bartonella ...

Dr. Bruno Chomel of the University of California ... and his colleagues are beginning to suspect ticks in many diseases where the pathways of transmittal seem fuzzy.

One bacterium, Bartonella quintana, caused the ``trench fever'' World War I troops caught on the battlefield. In the trenches, lice spread the disease. But in a recent outbreak in Seattle, Washington, lice were not a factor, the researchers note ...

Scientists had thought that cat scratch fever, which is caused by Bartonella henselae, was passed to humans from cat bites or scratches, as the name would suggest. But past research has found that as many as 30% of human patients infected may not have been bitten or scratched by a cat, and another study linked the infection to tick bites.

For the current study, Chomel and colleagues set out to determine if ticks might really be a possible channel of Bartonella-related disease. If Bartonella organisms could be found in ticks before they fed on larger animals, it would suggest that ticks played an important role in spreading these illnesses.

To help answer this question, Chomel and colleagues collected hard ticks at three sites in Santa Clara County and extracted DNA from their bodies, hoping to match specific genes to those of Bartonella bacteria. Of the 151 ticks they examined, the researchers found nearly 20% carried a Bartonella species, including those known to cause disease in humans.

``That's even higher than for known tick-borne diseases like Borrellia burgdorferi (the cause of Lyme disease),'' Chomel said in a press release ... ''

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Microbiology 2001;39:1221-1226.

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Title: Incidence of the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi in arthropods (Arthropoda) and antibodies in vertebrates (Vertebrata)

Author: Pokorny, P

Source: Cesk Epidemiol Mikrobiol Imunol 1989 Jan;38(1):52-60 Organization:


The paper summarizes data on hitherto assembled findings of Spirochaeta burgdorferi, the causal agent of Lyme disease in arthropods and the incidence of antibodies in birds and mammals.

The authors evaluate some vectors and reservoir animals, including possible carriers.

Borrelia burgdorferi was found so far in 30 species of Arthropoda, 13 species of mites (Acarina), 15 species of flies(Diptera), two species of fleas (Siphonaptera). The role of insects as vectors was not proved so far.

Antibodies were detected in eight species of birds (Aves, Passeriformes) and in 22 mammalian species: one species of marsupiales (Marsupialia), 3 species of carnivores (Carnivora), seven species of rodents (Rodentia), two species of rabbits and hares (Lagomorpha), in 8 species of even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla) and one species of odd-toed ungulates (Perissodactyla). The great majority of species comes from the non-arctic area.


source: The Journal of Infectious Diseases. Vol. 154, No. 2 . August 1986.

The article is titled "The Etiologic Agent of Lyme Disease in Deer Flies, Horse flies, and Mosquitoes"


This is the first report of B. burgdorferi in horse flies, deer flies and mosquitoes.

....the number of infected deer flies and horse flies varied with the species and sampling areas....Also, like mosquitoes and other biting insects, the blood- feeding behavior of female tabanids differs within and between species, and infection may be correlated, in part, with the quantities of blood ingested.

... Serological studies of mammals and identification of B. burgdorferi have established that this agent is widely distributed within given habitats in the United States and that closely related strains exist in Europe. The presence of this bacterium in tabanids and mosquitoes increases the risk of Lyme disease in tick infested areas.

These and other blood sucking arthropods should recieve further consideration in ecological and epidemiological studies of this disease and of related disorders. "

Louis A. Magnarelli, John F. Anderson, Alan G. Barbour


Taber's Medical Dictionary:

Tabanids -- a member of the dipterous family Tabanidae.

Tabinidae -- A family of insects belonging to the order Diptera. It includes horseflies, gadflies, deer flies, and mango flies, all bloodsucking insects that attack humans and other warm-blooded animals.

Tabanidae is important because flies serve in the transmission of the filaria worm, Loa loa, tularemia, anthrax and other diseases. Their bites are extremely painful and heal with difficulty.

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Newport News Daily Press, 6-5-01, By MICHAEL HINES

``Professor who specializes in ticks has developed a mating-smell decoy to lure the pests to their deaths

NORFOLK, Va. -- With tick season already under way, Daniel Sonenshine has found a way to kill the pest by using a different kind of critter: the love bug.

Sonenshine, a biology professor at Old Dominion University who specializes in ticks, has developed two methods to better control ticks, which can carry potentially fatal diseases.

His techniques depend on tick pheromones, substances the bugs use to influence how their buddies behave. Essentially, the pheromones would lure the pests to their deaths.

"The advantage is that it reduces the amount of poison needed to kill," he said.

The methods address two types of ticks, commonly called deer and dog ticks.

One technique would use a "tick decoy," a plastic pellet impregnated with pheromones. But the amorous arachnids would come crawling to a pellet of poison instead of potential mates.

Sonenshine's chemical Cupid takes advantage of dog ticks' mating habits. The pellet houses chemicals normally secreted by females as they feed, a pheromone similar to a pesticide but that actually attracts males ...

Sonenshine's other technique attracts deer ticks using droplets of pheromones found in tick feces.

Other deer ticks stay at the spot where they find the chemical. Feces offer a clue to the ticks that food might be near ...

The drops would attract several ticks to one spot, possibly making it easier to kill several at once on lawns or farmland ...

That would be a big change for ranchers fighting ticks on their animals.

Now ranchers dip cattle in baths, spray them or administer chemicals one spot at a time, said Rexford Cotten, an extension agent with the Virginia Department of Agriculture.

That's not always a good thing, Sonenshine said.

"You're dumping a huge amount of poison on an animal," he said.

The decoy would hold about a gram of chemicals compared to the gallons of pesticide used in baths and sprays. Just 10 percent of a pellet would be pesticide, Sonenshine said.

For the most part, spraying lawns before outdoor events is the best way to control ticks, Cotten said.

But sprays might not be the best attack, Sonenshine said, because ticks are mostly stationary.

"Once they find a host, they embed themselves in the skin and stay there," he said. "They're different than a mosquito flying through a cloud of dust or vapor ..."

He said his research provides a better approach.

"The rationale is let's make the ticks go to the pesticide instead of the other way around." ''

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