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Center to Focus on Lyme Disease

Uppsala University Hospital’s infectious disease unit is launching a pilot project to evaluate and treat patients with protracted, chronic pain and to determine if they have Lyme disease or another insect-borne illness.

The center is scheduled to start accepting referrals Sept. 15 and pilot projects begin Oct. 6. “The target group is patients who have had lengthy appeals and been exposed to ticks. To be investigated will require a referral and suspicion that they have been exposed to ticks,” says Frederick Sound, director of infectious disease.

The most common insect-borne disease in Sweden is Lyme disease, a bacterial infection spread by ticks. Usually the patient develops a bulls-eye-shaped or oval skin rash, and most patients fully recover with prompt antibiotic treatment. If the illness is not treated right away, patients can suffer from chronic aches and pains and other symptoms for years. For other tick-borne diseases, such as Rickettsia and anaplasma, more investigation is needed.

A large number of patients today are suffering from those long-term complaints that can often be linked to exposure to ticks, other insects or arachnids, so-called vector-borne diseases. Infectious diseases at Uppsala University estimated that about 15 percent of referrals from primary care and clinics are patients dealing with chronic pain and tiredness related to these illnesses. In Europe about 85,000 cases of Lyme disease and 2,900 cases of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) are reported per year. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 17 percent of all infections globally are vector-borne, a figure that is expected to rise as the planet’s climate gets warmer.

Often physicians find no clear explanation for patients’ lengthy, chronic problems, while it can be difficult to rule out these types of infections. For many patients, it leads to repeated health care visits, concern and impaired health, says Bjorn Olsen, a professor and physician who is medical director of infection for the reception.

In the long term, the plan is to establish a center for vector-borne infections, with the goal of improving diagnostic methods to speed assessment and treatment. The center will consist of a reception at the infectious diseases clinic in close cooperation with the Division of Clinical Microbiology at the university laboratory for targeted diagnostics and analysis, as well as a research unit at the newly opened Zoonosis Science Center at BMC.

Source: Uppsala University

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