The number of Lyme disease cases continues to rise in both New York and Vermont. A leading institute on its research is right in the North Country.
Lyme disease affects more people than you may think, including those who research it. “This is very personal because this is actually a picture of my sister's arm when she got lyme disease,” said Aimee Giffune, as she showed the crowded room her research.
In New York state, there were almost 20,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease between 2007-2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Chronic Lyme disease can affect the joints, hurt and central nervous system.
On Monday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand toured a place that studies the disease, the Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake. The institute's Tim Sellati says climate change makes the North Country a target for the growing problem. “The newly emergent areas of this disease, the leading edge of the disease will be Franklin and Essex Counties up here,” he explained.
Researchers are using an unlikely species to understand how tick-borne diseases infect humans.
“What we're trying to do is understand how the neutrophils effectively kill and clear bacteria from the zebra fish the same way they do from the leading edge of the bulls-eye rash,” said Sellati.
The hope is that research that could be expanded if the Trudeau Institute became a “Center of Excellence.”
To do so would require collaboration with local hospitals and universities and money.
Senator Gillibrand thinks the National Institutes of Health can provide federal funds. “This is the kind of thing NIH has invested a lot of money in and I would love to work with them to collaborate on NIH initiatives in regard to tick-borne illnesses and getting some of that research done here at Trudeau,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D – New York).
Being designated a “Center of Excellence” would expand the work already being done at the Trudeau Institute.
And experts say, research is the key to understanding and properly diagnosing Lyme disease.
“As we become more adroit in diagnosing, based on clinical criteria, the importance of laboratory data to make a treatment decision, is the heart of the discussion,” said Jonathan Krant, Medical Director at Adirondack Health.
Of course Lyme disease affects many people in Vermont too. According to the state's Health Department, the number of cases has steadily risen.
In 2011, there were more than 500 reports of people being exposed to Lyme disease in Vermont.