CT research institute focuses on testing and preventing Lyme Disease

FILE - This is a March 2002 file photo of a deer tick under a microscope in the entomology lab at the University of Rhode Island in South Kingstown, R.I. Researchers focused on ticks and the debilitating diseases they spread say the heavy snow that blanketed the Northeast this winter was like a cozy quilt for baby blacklegged ticks that are now questing for blood as the weather warms up. (AP Photo/Victoria Arocho, File)

DANBURY, Conn. (WTNH) – The Western Connecticut Health Network Research Institute is where Lyme Disease is the focal point, from prevention to testing.

“We are using basically five of the genes of the spirochetes to detect Lyme Disease in patients,” said Researcher Srirupa Das, Ph.D.

The spirochete is the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease, an infectious illness transmitted by deer ticks.

Dr. Paul Fiedler is the Principal Investigator of the Lyme Disease Research Program.

“They can use that twisting motion to invade through vessel walls when they are in the blood and enter into various tissues in the body,” said Fiedler.

The focus here is to come up with a better way to diagnose Lyme Disease, by studying the presence of the spirochete’s genes, using high powered digital technology.

While testing has improved in recent years, there are challenges.

“We still have a problem in the field and that is that about 30 percent of patients who come in with acute Lyme Disease still test negative by even this very sensitive powerful test,” said Fiedler.

Whether this organism is present in the blood or not, could lead to a clearer diagnosis and treatment.

“And if it is present,” said Fiedler. “We can see how much is present. And we are optimistic that correlating that both the presence and absence plus the number of organisms will shed light on what is the optimal treatment that they will need at that point.”

Meanwhile, Lead Research Associate Amber Butler is looking for more patients to sign up with the Lyme Disease Registry, which has about 400 patients already participating. Their information will be used to gain more insight into answering complex questions.

“We are trying to understand why for many patients they might get flu like symptoms, for some patients they get a rash, others don’t,” said Butler. “So we are trying to understand what’s going on and why there are some patients who do feel long term symptoms even though they’ve been treated with antibiotics.”

Still, key to Lyme Disease she says is prevention.

“These ticks are really tiny. The nymphs, which are the babies that are out right now in the spring time, are about the size of a poppy seed, so even if you are even looking for them, they are hard to find. But it definitely helps if you are looking for them in the first place,” said Butler.

For more Lyme Disease Registry information, call 203-739-8383 or click here.

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