Dear Fans, Friends, Fiends, Foes, Family and Nature Lovers,
We have seen the enemy and he is (insert your favorite dramatic, minor chord, played when the villain slams open the bat-wing saloon doors and takes aim at the good guy wearing the white hat and drinking a glass of milk here.) a super-villain called The Spirochete!
Yes folks, this is a photo of the bad guy. His Super-Villain name is The Spirochete alias Borrelia Burgdorferi. This is the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease. Actually, I think it would be more analogous to a Sci-Fi Horror flick than a Western, though.
One of the many odd things about this bacterium is its shape. It has a corkscrew shape and is pointy on each end. The end also has a sharp hook on it. It moves along by spinning in a counter-clockwise direction to propel itself. The end with the hook hits a cell and the corkscrew shape digs into healthy cells and either wraps itself around a healthy cell, doing the cellular equivalent of a strangle hold or bores through a healthy cell. It is also unusual because it does its dirty work without the emission of any toxins and does not generally travel through the blood making it difficult to detect. It is also one of the only germs that do not feed on iron, but on Manganese.
Another amazingly insidious feature of this germ is its adaptability. It has 132 working genes, compared to the germ that causes Syphilis, which is also a spirochete and has some similar properties, at 22 working genes. This helps them adapt to a wider variety of tissue types and also allows them to adapt to dormancy, meaning they can hide for years in all sorts of tissue. It can swim in high or low viscosity environments and it can attack and adapt to several areas at the same time. All the while passing its knowledge on via genetic code to the next generation.
Not only that, but they are also gram negative, which means they are not as susceptible to antibiotics. Given their high adaptability this means it can be very difficult to fight them. Frankly I found the explanations of the differences between gram negative and gram positive bacteria somewhat overwhelming but I did learn that gram positive bacteria, like Staph and Strep are easier to battle with antibiotics than gram negatives are. Other gram negatives include E. Coli and Salmonella.
According to the CDC:
“Gram-negative bacteria cause infections including pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound or surgical site infections, and meningitis in healthcare settings. Gram-negative bacteria are resistant to multiple drugs and are increasingly resistant to most available antibiotics. These bacteria have built-in abilities to find new ways to be resistant and can pass along genetic materials that allow other bacteria to become drug-resistant as well.”
So, after all of that, I found this from http://www.metapathogen.com/borrelia/:
“In addition to its complex genetic makeup, B. burgdorferi engages in so-called “stealth pathology” to evade the host’s immune response. Stealth pathology involves following strategies: (1) suppression of host immune system; (2) mutagenesis (possible occurrence of antibiotic resistant mutants); (3) life stage switching (dormant cysts and actively reproducing and disseminating bacteria); (4) variable antigen production; (5) physical seclusion (colonization of poorly vascularized tissues); (6) secreted factors (enable dissemination by helping bacteria to adhere to cells and pierce the cell walls).”
When I read the mutagenesis thing I thought of that 50’s movies where the scientists are experimenting with radioactivity and the ants mutate into giants. The life stage switching would be like the pods in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But then I changed my mind and decided that really, with its multiple genes adapting and changing as it replicated and passed on new information to the next generation, I wonder if it isn’t more like the Michael Crichton book, The Andromeda Strain. That book, like much of Crichton’s work, was pretty scary when it came out in 1969 and we didn’t really know what was out there. The Spirochete is pretty scary, too.
So, how does this low-life malefactor even get in to do his filthy business? He has an accomplice aiding and abetting him. A good-for-nothing miscreant commonly known as the Blacklegged Tick. To be fair, this blackguard probably doesn’t even know what it is doing. When it hatches from its egg as a larva it climbs to the edge of a blade of grass or low-lying leaf and waits for the opportunity to attack some unsuspecting passerby, like a mouse, and bites it. The tick’s saliva, which has an anesthetic in it, is put on the victim’s skin so the bite is painless. It then sticks a barbed feeding tube into the bite and sucks blood from the animal. It is during this process when the germ is passed from host to host. Mice are referred to as “reservoirs of B. burgdorferi.” (Yet another reason to hate the vile little vermin. I hates meeses to pieces!) It is likely that the larva get it from the mice. When he has fed enough and is bloated on the blood of his victim he then drops off and grows into a nymph. Then climbs up again, perhaps a little higher on a plant, closer to humans and repeats the process. The tick nymph is incredibly small and since the bite is painless it is easy to see how it can be overlooked. The bite can sometimes, 35% of cases, produce a weird looking rash that is shaped like a ring.
When I was growing up in Wisconsin my Grandma would check us kids over when we came in from playing in the tall grass and woods but I think that nymph would have escaped detection, depending on where it was located at. If we had a tick stuck on us, usually our arms, Grandpa would take a match and touch where the head would be and it would back out. They don’t recommend this method any more.
Now, just as other criminals have come and gone, getting caught by the good guys, B. burgdorferi has an enemy. Now that we have found out who and what he is and where his hideouts are, we can look at ways to catch him out and gun him down like Bonnie and Clyde. He is not the unbeatable hidden foe he thought he was. He may have started out as a Moriarty but he will wind up more like John Dillinger.
We are going to attack this villainous dastard and his gang right where he lives and we will do it by high, long-term doses of antibiotics, a total of four so far, which are all designed to work on a different area. Along with a regimen of supplements, probiotics, diet and exercise. This has (and will for the time being) exacerbated the symptoms so she has to take more pills for the symptoms, twenty-nine pills a day in total. For example, exercising muscle tissue will likely wake up the ne’er-do-wells hiding there, burrowed into the cells. She was hit by foul ball a couple of years ago which may have stirred all of these guys up to begin with. They have to come out and fight. The problem is that this kind of close-quarters fighting is tiring and has been generating more fatigue, more tics, twitches, tremors and muscle spasms and more balance issues. The more she sticks to her regimen, the tougher it will be for a while. She may soon have to get a port for self-administering intravenous antibiotics.
Now, rather than try to explain what antibiotics are and how they work (I had kind of a vague idea before) One of the best articles I found while doing the research for this entry was at: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/microbiome/antibiotics/ If you want to read, in plain English, about the basic different types of antibiotics and how they work, I suggest this article. It was surprisingly easy to read yet very informative.
But, the upshot of this has been having a diagnosis. Knowing the enemy and where he lay. We knew that the way she was treated by the other doctors before, being told that her problem was all in her head or that a young person like you can’t have all of these problems or the really bizarre one, that a neurologist in Denver told her, you just need a boyfriend. It is not all in her head; it is not a conversion disorder caused by some trauma or stress that she is suppressing.
Finally, of course, we know we are blessed to know the Great Physician, who has given unto men a portion of His wisdom and understanding, but who is ultimately in control. He knows the revelation of knowledge he has given to the doctors and he has his own reasons and timing. Most people don’t realize it, but there is no record that while Job was alive he ever knew or found out what was going on and why he was suffering. Even when God healed him and rewarded him, He never told him what it was all about. Same with many other examples, the man at the Gate Beautiful in Acts 3 for example, how many times had Jesus walked by him? We believe in Divine Healing and we believe in good doctors who have something wise to say or some knowledge they will use. One of the ways I have always heard it taught was that when God heals you, the medicine you are taking for your problem will have an adverse effect and you will have to go to the doctor to find out why you are having the new problems only to discover that you don’t have that condition any longer. While this is a good, solid, common-sense teaching, I think that daughter will know and everyone who knows her or interacts with her will know, because she won’t have severe body pain, severe joint pain or twitching and jerking and losing her balance and spinning around and almost falling. She will know, long before her doctor tells her, that she no longer needs to take eleven prescriptions and nine supplements for a total of twenty-nine pills a day. And that will be a good day.
Remember, The Good Book says, “…A certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse…”
And, “a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any…”