Lyme & Tick-borne Diseases Center
1. Laboratory testing for Lyme Disease
Four laboratories are being compared to determine which lab has the best sensitivity and specificity for Lyme testing of patients with chronic persistent symptoms. Serum sample from each patient and control is divided and sent to each of the 4 labs - 3 are Lyme specialty labs and 1 is a commercial lab.
2. SPECT Study
Because SPECT scans of the brain may be useful as a tool in differential diagnosis, we are comparing the brain SPECT reports from patients with well-documented chronic Lyme disease and two control groups who are age- and sex-matched (depressed individuals, healthy controls). Although believed to be useful as a clinical tool, this has never been tested in a diagnosis-blinded fashion as it will be in this study. Two expert nuclear medicine physicians (Dr. Ronald Van Heertum and other) will read the scans blind to diagnosis.
3. Neurocognitive Profile Study
Being able to distinguish Lyme Disease from other diseases that can cause cognitive problems is crucial in differential diagnosis and treatment planning. Toward this end, Dr. John Keilp is comparing the results from 81 patients with IgG Western blot positive Lyme disease with chronic cognitive symptoms with patients without Lyme disease who suffer from depression. These groups will be contrasted to determine which cognitive tests are best able to discriminate the two groups.
4. Brain and Serum Bank
The Columbia Lyme Center in collaboration with Dr. Andrew Dwork co-director of neuropathology at the NYS Psychiatric Institute is now able to collect post-mortem brains from patients with well-documented Lyme disease and from patients with other diseases that may have been exacerbated or caused by infection with Bb. A serum and CSF bank is also being established from well-documented patients with chronic Lyme disease and from controls with other diseases that will serve as a resource for evaluating the sensitivity and specificity of new diagnostic assays.
Under the direction of Dr. Steven Schutzer in collaboration with Columbia and investigators from other institutions, a proteomics study will be undertaken to determine whether miniscule amounts of protein can be identified in patient samples to distinguish Lyme disease from other inflammatory diseases and healthy controls.
6. Brain Mapping
Dr. Fallon and Dr. Moeller are examining the sensitivity and specificity of a newly identified brain map that may serve to differentiate patients with neurologic Lyme disease from patients with non-CNS Lyme disease. Identification of different brain maps may then elucidate the pathophysiology of chronic persistent symptoms.
Two post-doc Lyme fellowships are now active, one in microbiology and one in family medicine. We also take 2 medical students every summer for an intensive 8 week program in Lyme and tick-borne diseases and neuropsychiatry.