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Conquering Lyme Disease - Science Bridges the Great Divide

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the United States, with more than 300,000 cases diagnosed each year. However, doctors are deeply divided on how to diagnose and treat it, giving rise to the controversy known as the “Lyme Wars.” Firmly entrenched camps have emerged, causing physicians, patient communities, and insurance providers to be pitted against one another in a struggle to define Lyme disease and its clinical challenges. Health care providers may not be aware of its diverse manifestations or the limitations of diagnostic tests. Meanwhile, patients have felt dismissed by their doctors and confused by the conflicting opinions and self-help information found online.

Book cover for Conquering Lyme Disease: Science Bridges the Great Divide

In this authoritative book, the Columbia University Medical Center physicians Brian A. Fallon and Jennifer Sotsky explain that, despite the vexing “Lyme Wars,” there is cause for both doctors and patients to be optimistic. The past decade’s advances in precision medicine and biotechnology are reshaping our understanding of Lyme disease and accelerating the discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat it, such that the great divide previously separating medical communities is now being bridged. Drawing on both extensive clinical experience and cutting-edge research, Fallon, Sotsky, and their colleagues present these paradigm-shifting breakthroughs in language accessible to both sides. They clearly explain the immunologic, infectious, and neurologic basis of chronic symptoms, the cognitive and psychological impact of the disease, as well as current and emerging diagnostic tests, treatments, and prevention strategies. Case histories are presented throughout the book of both typical and atypical manifestations. Written for the educated patient and health care provider seeking to learn more, Conquering Lyme Disease gives an up-to-the-minute overview of the science that is transforming the way we address this complex illness. It argues forcefully that the expanding plague of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases can be confronted successfully and may soon even be reversed.

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So what is science’s role in turning the corner on what some have labeled a ‘public health failure’? Physicians Brian Fallon and Jennifer Sotsky tackle this question in their insightful study Conquering Lyme Disease, in which they journey beyond the history, biology, and symptoms of the illness. Their greatest accomplishment, by far, is delivering multiple viewpoints with minimal bias and great sensitivity: the clinician’s, the researcher’s, and particularly the patient’s.” (Read the full review in Nature.)

 James G. Logan, PhD (Head of the Department of Disease Control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)

Fallon and Sotsky, the director of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center and a psychiatry resident at Columbia University Medical Center, respectively, assemble a sturdy reference on an illness whose varied presentations can bedevil patients and caregivers alike. The authors candidly warn of the technical density of much of their material. The first four chapters on Lyme’s early history, signs and symptoms, and diagnostics, as well as a later chapter on treatment options, will be well over the heads of most laypersons. The authors zero in on the unsettling effects that medical uncertainties have on patients and their families, lavishing praise on those who’ve “played a pivotal role in shaping our understanding” of the disease that has led to better insurance coverage and funding. The authors also hail new discoveries and “the biotechnology revolution” in diagnosing and treating Lyme, offering practical advice and resources for disease prevention and transmission. Perhaps most poignant is their analysis of the daunting experience of being a Lyme patient. But there’s hope, too: “Medical professionals are gradually waking up to the complexity of Lyme disease and to the real suffering of patients with chronic symptoms.” Aimed at specialists, Fallon and Sotsky’s heady volume presents the multidisciplinary cadre aiming to restore Lyme patients “to their former well-being and good grace.

 Publishers Weekly

Lyme disease is a more complicated and nuanced illness than has been previously recognized. Fallon and Sotsky’s experience with the neuropsychological manifestations of Lyme, combined with their insights into the current patient experience, make this book a significant addition to the literature. A well-organized, comprehensive treatment of Lyme disease and the associated issues that patients face.

John Aucott, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Lyme Disease Research Center

Conquering Lyme Disease is a balanced and factual synthesis of what is known and unknown about Lyme disease. Written in a clear and understandable way for a lay audience as well as medical professionals, it is a rich source of information on this complex subject, explaining the science behind current treatments and future directions for research.

Stephen W. Barthold, DVM, PhD, University of California, Davis.

An enlightening, informative, and up-to-date account of the key issues surrounding the complexity, controversy, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of Lyme borreliosis, especially the persistent form of the disease. Fallon, an outstanding and well-respected physician with tremendous experience helps to bridge the divide and offer new hope in our fight against this debilitating disease. A must-read for all interested in Lyme and associated diseases.

Ying Zhang, MD. Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health

About the Authors

Brian A. Fallon, MD, is director of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Jennifer Sotsky, MD, is a physician with a specialty in narrative medicine. She is a resident at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.