Take a Tick to Lunch
Press Release- Take a Tick to Lunch, Literally...
January 3, 2011. Researchers at Bethesda’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Yale and Tufts are searching for Lyme patients willing to provide meals, lodging and perhaps even some light entertainment for a couple dozen ticks that would stay with them, actually on them, for up to a week. The study, unofficially dubbed the “take a tick to lunch” program, isn’t making many points with anyone.
To play host to a clique of ticks, applicants are required to undergo a physical examination and provide blood and skin samples prior to having 20-30 ticks placed on their body, preferably at the site of a Lyme rash. If no rash is present, the tiny guests will be placed on the non-dominant forearm and be sent home with participants. Follow-up skin and blood samples will be collected for study.
Volunteers will be required to keep track of symptoms or problems that may arise while the ticks are leisurely feeding on them to help researchers address the second outcome measure of the study- assessing the safety of this procedure in humans.
Once the ticks have thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality of their human donor, they (the ticks) will be allowed to progress to the next stage of life (nymphs) prior to being placed on a few immunodeficiency mice. The primary outcome of this experiment is to determine whether this method (xenodiagnosis) can detect the continued presence of B. burgdorferi in patients with Lyme disease after antibiotic therapy. Simply put, the grantees want to know if humans who have been treated for Lyme disease can still infect a tick, and the tick then pass the Lyme disease to a mouse- a sort of “spin” on the normal transmission method, and an unusual technique that begs the question, why?
Persisting Lyme symptoms after treatment are well-documented and evidence of spirochetes have been detected in animals and humans after they were treated, yet Program Director Linden Hu, of Tufts University School of Medicine, recently received a federal grant for almost ¼ of a million dollars to conduct this latest effort, “Searching for Persistence of Infection in Lyme Disease”. In the past six years Hu has been awarded over $3.5 million dollars by the NIAID/NIH.
Critics of the study are concerned Hu’s and his colleagues will utilize the findings as a basis for solidifying recommendations against treating sick patients with additional antibiotics if humans fail to infect the ticks or the ticks fail to infect the mice. Hu and his colleagues fell short of enlisting patients (-153) in a previous Lyme related study, yet conclusions were published and a decade later the results are still used as one of the main reasons for recommending against treatment for patients, which in turn supports the denial of reimbursement by insurers.
Hu’s conclusions, like those in other studies he has been involved in, will be based on results of Lyme tests that Johns Hopkins, CDC and others have referred to as unreliable. Patients question the relevance of the study and how it fits in the larger scheme of things, like finding an accurate test or cure for Lyme disease. Many feel its only use will be to add more fluff and loftiness to the mounting stack of highly questionable science published in the last few decades.
Contact person- Lucy Barnes
Recruiting for Study, Information