Lyme disease, and other tick-borne illnesses, can cause intense and prolonged symptoms. In fact, some patients experience chronic symptoms for a number of years following the initial bite. However, there is little expertise on how to effectively treat these chronic and sometimes debilitating symptoms. Now, a $16M grant from the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation is working to change that. The grant supports the Cohen Center for Health and Recovery from Tick-Borne Diseases, shares a press release. The Center, which will be located at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, will focus on assisting patients, funding clinical trials, and determine more effective treatments for patients with Lyme disease.
The Cohen Center
The prevalence of Lyme disease is concerning, especially considering the rapid rise in cases over the last few years. While an average of 30,000 cases used to be reported yearly, there are now around 476,000 cases each year. Even with treatment, up to 20% of patients with new Lyme disease infections will deal with chronic and possibly debilitating symptoms. But what treatments, if any, can manage these symptoms? Unfortunately, there is not a lot of research to guide this understanding. This leaves patients with high-cost care, multiple doctor visits, and a great deal of psychological stress on top of physical discomfort. The Cohen Center will do its best to address and fix these issues, creating a better treatment landscape for patients.
Altogether, there will be a number of family, integrative, and behavioral medicine specialists hired to the Cohen Center to provide the most comprehensive care to patients. Overall, the Center hopes to be open to patients by later in 2021.
Outside of medical specialists, the Cohen Center will also allow patients to enroll in a variety of clinical trials and other studies. Through this, patients will gain access to new therapeutic options while also informing the treatment and drug development landscape. At the same time, new medical fellows and students will learn how to best care for patients with Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Finally, the Cohen Center will take insight from the community into potential study and clinical trial ideas.
The Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria causes Lyme disease, a vector-borne illness which can cause chronic symptoms if left untreated. In most cases, Lyme disease is transmitted through infected ticks. Generally, deer ticks are responsible in the mid-Atlantic, north-central, and northeastern portions of the United States, while the western blacklegged tick is responsible for infections on the west coast. In some cases, Lyme disease may be misdiagnosed as depression or myalgic encephalitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).
Typically, symptoms appear within 3-30 days following infection. These include:
- Fever and chills
- Muscle and joint pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Erythema migrans rash
However, as the condition progresses, additional (and more intense) symptoms appear. These include:
- Severe fatigue
- Neck stiffness
- Severe headaches
- Nerve pain
- Brain and spinal cord inflammation
- Rashes across the body
- Facial palsy
- Muscle, joint, bone, and tendon pain and inflammation
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath and/or difficulty breathing
Learn more about Lyme disease here.