Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the US, this week announced that the organization has raised more than $8 million since the beginning of the pandemic of which 100 percent will be used directly for research and education programs focused on achieving its mission of making Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure. In 2022, Bay Area Lyme will mark its 10th anniversary, and throughout this year will be reflecting on a decade of achievements by the foundation and the Lyme community while acknowledging the significant challenges that still lie ahead.
“Although the pandemic presented us with many extraordinary hurdles, it also helped people understand the complicated aspects of infectious diseases – including the importance of accurate diagnostics, the role of antibodies, and the power of effective treatments – all of which are, and continue to be, huge factors in our fight against Lyme and tick-borne diseases,” said Linda Giampa, executive director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation. “The similarities between Lyme and COVID-19 clearly show the critical nature of scientific pursuit, progress and education. The foundation demonstrates consistent, measurable progress unlocking the mysteries of tick-borne diseases, which remain one of the most important health crises of our time. Our hearts go out to the long-haul COVID-19 sufferers, who are struggling with unreliable diagnostics, limited treatments and ongoing health issues, because this has been the Lyme community’s lived experience and struggle for many years.”
Research in Action
Bay Area Lyme Foundation’s science committee has approved and funded 18 discrete projects, and 15 studies were published since the pandemic began in March 2020, and the organization anticipates announcing significant progress in 2022. Highlights of recently funded research include:
Jacob Lemieux, MD, DPhil, Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, who is using next-generation and target capture sequencing to develop a sensitive, direct detection diagnostic for early Lyme disease.
Artem Rogovskyy, DVM, PhD, Texas A&M, who is working to develop a unique, robust, rapid diagnostic test for Lyme disease with significant improvements in sensitivity and specificity compared to current options.
Sunjya Schweig, MD, California Center for Functional Medicine and FOCUS Health Group, Naturopathic, who collaborated on research to evaluate anti-microbial effects of 14 natural products compared to antibiotics used to treat Lyme disease with findings published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.
Flightpath Biosciences, Inc., which recently announced 30-day preclinical trial data demonstrating the ability of hygromycinA to clear Lyme bacteria.
Sapient Bioanalytics, which is conducting biomarker research aimed at identifying a direct diagnostic for Lyme disease.
Biobank Drives the Research Engine
The Lyme Disease Biobank (LDB), a program of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, was created because medical researchers were unable to access the human blood, urine, and tissue samples they needed for their research. This lack of samples made it extremely difficult to conduct research on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. LDB collects samples from people with early Lyme, as well as people with chronic/persistent Lyme. Samples are then made available to approved researchers working on new diagnostics and treatments for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. LDB continues to make important progress and has:
Expanded to include a San Diego location, bringing the total to six sites collecting blood and urine samples across the US;
Provided samples for more than 60 research projects;
Exceeded a sample collection of 1000 individuals from regions in the Northeast, Midwest, and Western coast of the US, representing early Lyme disease and later stages of Lyme disease including Lyme carditis and neuroborreliosis, as well as other tick-borne diseases;
Published five studies based on biobank research. All biobank studies can be found at: https://www.bayarealyme.org/biobank/news-publications/
Educating the Community
Over the course of the pandemic, Bay Area Lyme replaced the dozens of planned in-person community events with innovative virtual offerings and focused its energy on expanding its portfolio of awareness and prevention programs. These have included launching the Ticktective podcast and video series, designed to investigate the latest scientific knowledge and advances in Lyme and tick-borne diseases, offering insightful discussion with researchers, physicians, patients, and thought leaders in the field and developing an educational platform for the golf community, which is one of the most high-risk groups for tick-borne disease exposure, forming partnerships led by former Harvard Women’s golf team member and Bay Area Lyme Advisory Board Member, Nina Fairbairn.
In September, the foundation also hosted a successful in-person LymeAid event, during which Charles Chiu, MD, PhD, University of California, San Francisco, presented insights and research related to the similarities between COVID-19 and Lyme disease, including the difficulties in diagnosing each disease.
The most common vector-borne infectious disease in the country, Lyme disease is a potentially disabling infection caused by bacteria transmitted through the bite of an infected tick to people and pets. If caught early, most cases of Lyme disease can be effectively treated, but it is commonly misdiagnosed due to lack of awareness and unreliable diagnostic tests.
Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a national organization committed to making Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure, is the leading public not-for-profit sponsor of innovative Lyme disease research in the US. A 501c3 charity based in Silicon Valley, Bay Area Lyme Foundation collaborates with world-class scientists and institutions to accelerate medical breakthroughs for Lyme disease. For more information about Lyme disease or to get involved, visit www.bayarealyme.org or call 650-530-2439.