American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) Lyme Disease Seminar


  • Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Speaker: Leila Zackrison, MD, FACR, FACP
  • Attendee: Joanne Quinn, PhD, RMA


Lyme disease rash

Photo by Jongarrison, CC BY-SA 2.5

Erythematous rash in the pattern of a “bull’s-eye” from Lyme disease.

Lyme syndrome is a disease that most people recognize resulting from a tick bite. It is also known as the "great imposter" since it mimics over 350 different medical conditions including, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, CPC, Lupus, reactive arthritis, Reiter's syndrome, vasculitis, chronic neck pain, chronic back pain, MS, ALS, dementia, Alzheimer's, chronic headache, migraines, Crohn's, interstitial cystitis, chronic sinusitis, chronic bronchitis and asthma. It is now a global disease since it is transported by migrating birds infected with ticks, as an example. The lyme spirochete is called Borrelia Burgdorferi (Bb) and can penetrate almost any tissue, residing there for months or years. Symptoms appear anywhere from one to twelve weeks after the tick bite.

There are many tick borne diseases including babesia, ehritichia, bartonella as well as the lyme. This is one of the complications of treatment, as these co-infections can cause the patient to not have successful treatment if lyme is the only spirochete treated. If the disease if caught early on, treatment with oral antibiotic has proven to be very effective.

The problem is diagnosis. Many people do not recall getting bitten and the blood test will not turn positive until 4-6 weeks after the bite. A classic bulls eye rash will develop in only 40% of the cases, but as mentioned blood tests will be negative during the rash stage.

Early stage lyme will have a gradual onset of nonspecific symptoms including fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain and stiffness, knee effusions and progressive brain and nerve involvement.

In the second stage of the disease sleep disturbances, sensory loss and distal numbness are possible symptoms.

Later stage symptoms include memory loss, diminished visual, verbal memory and processing speed, decreased concentration, brain fog and confusion. Additional later stage symptoms of lyme include multiple cranial neuropathies, facial paralysis, vertigo, hoarseness, vomiting, diarrhea and chest pain.

Final stages include spinal pain, headaches, ALS, MS, Guillain Barre, limb paralysis, chronic arthritis, glandular dysregulation, neutrally mediated low blood pressure and foot drop.

Unfortunately, no organs are spared by this disease. People who suffer with lyme often have concurrent issues with mold sensitivity, parasites and heavy metals. Because of this, these three issues are often addressed prior to actual lyme treatment.

Sadly there is no "gold standard" for testing lyme disease. The Borellia burgdorferi (Bb) is rarely found in the blood, but rather in the tissue. So blood tests often do not detect it. The serum test called the ELISA has low sensitivity and the PCR on whole blood, serum, urine, CSF, bone marrow and other biopsy material has only a 30% sensitivity. The lyme Western Blot measures antibodies to specific Bb antigens reported as numbered bands. It is only necessary to have one band to confirm the diagnosis. Unfortunately, the Western Blot has its pitfalls. As a result Lyme disease is usually a clinical diagnosis and tests are only adjunct. Negative test results do not rule out Lyme but there is currently no cost efficient or simple mechanism to positively test for Lyme.

Treatment is also a challenge. Typically, the patient needs to detoxify, often receive chelation, IV antibiotics and long term high dose antibiotic treatment. In order to have more effective treatment, the co-infections, mentioned earlier must be addressed initially. These include bartonella, babesia and ehrlichia.

Bartonella testing is universally unreliable. Treatment could include Quinolone, Rifampin, Ketek and Heel detoxification kits.

Babesia is the second co-infection that is common. A typical symptom is unrelenting headaches. Babesia is also very hard to treat. Clindamycin and quinine can be used IV but has a high side effect profile.

The third co-infection is ehrlichia which presents with knife-like headaches and high fever. Therapy includes doxycylcine.

Overall, general detoxification of the liver and kidneys are addressed. Both detox pathways of the liver are considered. Heavy metal detoxification is done through chelation IV or oral. Adrenal health is investigated and addressed if necessary. The gastrointestinal tract is also addressed and repaired.

Direct treatment for lyme includes oral antibiotic therapy, and IV antibiotic therapy.

Finally, nutrition is a key element of the treatment for the patient. It is important to maximize the body's innate ability to heal, including biochemical support with nutrients, hormone balance, exercise and minimize exposure to toxins. Basic supplementation would include a high quality multi-vitamin, all the B vitamins, vitamin D3, buffered vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, selenium, trace minerals, CoQ10, Iodine, fish oils, grape seed extract, L-carnitine, alpha lipoic acid, methionine, silymarin, D-ribose and/or chorella.

The bottom line is that there are many tick borne infections. These include those already mentioned as well as Q-fever, rocky mountain spotted fever, rickettsiae, tularemia, relapsing fever, viruses, Colorado tick fever, tick borne encephalitis, Master's disease, mycoplasma and Chlamydia. Ticks are found in almost every state in the United States and different ticks harbor different diseases. Anytime a person has been bitten by a tick it is prudent to contact a physician for treatment.

There are organizations to help patients and physicians who want to learn more. One is the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance, dedicated to raising awareness, supporting initiatives and promoting advocacy to find a cure for tick-borne diseases, including Lyme.