(Please see comment after article)

New England scientists explore new method for eradicating Lyme disease

Patrick Varine
Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018, 5:03 p.m.

This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a blacklegged tick, also known as a deer tick, a carrier of Lyme disease.

Pennsylvania is No. 1 in an unfortunate category: number of Lyme disease cases, which spiked between 2016 and 2017 according to a Quest Diagnostics report released this summer.

With more than 10,000 infections reported in the state last year, it might seem that any solution is worth trying. (**Please see my comment at end of article**)

In New England, scientists from Harvard, MIT and Tufts University have begun genetically engineering white-footed mice — which in the wild carry the Borrelia microbe that causes Lyme disease and pass it along to ticks that feed on their blood — to produce antibodies resistant to both ticks and a particular Borrelia protein. The idea is that immunizing the mice will have a trickle-down effect to the local tick population.

The plan is to eventually release small groups of mice on local islands off the coast of Massachusetts, where they can be isolated for study, to look at potential options for larger application.

For Dr. Bill Rawls of North Carolina, who contracted Lyme disease and is the author of “Unlocking Lyme,” the solution is much more complex.

“There are a lot of microbes in ticks, not just the Borrelia microbe that is associated with Lyme disease,” said Dr. Rawls, medical director for Vital Plan, an herbal supplement company. “The problem with the mouse thing is that even if it is successful, and you block the transmission of Borrelia and prevent the spread of that variety of Lyme disease, perhaps that opens the door to something worse, like Rickettsia, (a microbe associated with the spread of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever).”

As an advocate of holistic medicine, Dr. Rawls said the increase in Lyme cases, as well as the way it affects humans, is symptomatic of a changing world.

“We’ve radically changed our food supply, we all live under oppressive stress and we don’t exercise,” he said. “And all of those factors affect our immune systems. I think it’s time our society starts looking at problems like Lyme disease in that light.”

The Borrelia microbe has been around for millions of years, as have ticks, Dr. Rawls said.

“So the question is: why are people getting much more sick with it now?” he said. “I see Lyme disease as a fundamental model for all chronic illness.”

Dr. Sam Donta, a Western Pennsylvania native who now lives in Falmouth, Mass., was the keynote speaker at the 2018 Pennsylvania Lyme Medical Conference, held this spring at Drexel University College of Medicine. He has been studying Lyme for three decades, and echoed Dr. Rawls’ view that it is a complex illness.

It is also difficult to diagnose, he said. There is no blood test to see if a person is infected.

“All the blood tests say is whether a person has been exposed,” Dr. Donta said. “I diagnose it clinically. It is a combination of symptoms.”

Those symptoms can be fatal.

The PA Lyme Resource Network is partnering with Storyhouse Documentary Theater to present “The Little Things” on Oct. 13 at Ursinus College in Collegeville outside Philadelphia. It tells the story of a family who lost their son to Lyme disease, and is being dedicated to the memory of three eastern Pennsylvania men who died of Lyme-related complications in 2017.

One of those men, Kevin Furey of Lafayette Hill, Pa., contracted five different infections from one tick bite, according to network officials.

Dr. Rawls said he is not suggesting that the white-footed house proposal is futile,

“but there’s the old saying: don’t mess with Mother Nature,” he said. “If you eliminate this microbe, do you open up other pathways for other infections?”

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.



I’ve been waiting for this with bated breath ever since I heard Kevin Esvelt speak at a Lyme CME conference.  I cringed then and I’m cringing now.

If you need a primer on GMO mice, start here:

According to a study by an independent Canadian tick researcher, there’s been an inordinate amount of stress placed on mice, when there are plenty of other reservoirs:  Scott has shown that there are established populations of deer ticks in Manitoba as well as in insular, hyper-endemic Corkscrew Island, yet both are devoid of white-footed mice. He points out that there are numerous reservoir hosts that must be considered including other mammals, birds, and reptiles.  For decades we’ve been told it’s the mice. Yet a real problem in the West and South are reptiles like skinks and lizards:,

So mice are only a part of the problem.  Maybe a lot less than we’ve been told.

Another point to stress is that the CRISPR gene-editing technology (tinkering with genes) has been shown to create unintended mutations.  This article shows 100 deletions and insertions and more than 1,500 unintended single-nucleotide mutations occurred .  


Geneticist and virologist Jonathan Latham, Executive Director of the Bioscience Resource Project and editor of Independent Science News, has spoken out about the fallacy of industry talking points in the past.

“So far, it is technically not possible to make a single (and only a single) genetic change to a genome using CRISPR and be sure one has done so,” Latham reportedly explained.  This feat may not even be possible biologically; one small change to genome can inevitably lead to a host of other, unanticipated changes.

In fact, experts say that CRISPR could cause hundreds of unintended DNA alterations.

Go here to watch a short 2 min video:  What is CRISPR

While it all seems neat and tidy on paper and in a cool colored video, what happens in the wild could be an entirely different matter.  Releasing GMO mosquitoes to supposedly eradicate Zika has shown many undesirable effects:  The $18-million project, funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, involves mosquitoes that have been infected with Wolbachia bacteria, which stops viruses from growing inside the mosquito and therefore from being transmitted between people.

I wrote about that when it all went down:  (This link shows an important dog study you need to read about as well)  Take away:  in dogs, Wolbachia released into the blood stream causes wide-spread inflammation, something Lyme/MSIDS patients already struggle with.

Even the European union has ruled that CRISPR plants are GMO’s and should be subjected to the same rules:

“It means for all the new inventions … you would need to go through the lengthy approval process of the European Union,” Kai Purnhagen, an expert at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, told Nature.

Then there’s the issue of pathogen enhancement:

According to a study by Penn State, mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia are more likely to become infected with West Nile – which will then be transmitted to humans.“This is the first study to demonstrate that Wolbachia can enhance a human pathogen in a mosquito,“ one researcher said. “The results suggest that caution should be used when releasing Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes into nature to control vector-borne diseases of humans.” “Multiple studies suggest that Wolbachia may enhance some Plasmodium parasites in mosquitoes, thus increasing the frequency of malaria transmission to rodents and birds,” he said.  So besides very probable wide spread inflammation, and that other diseases may become more prevalent due to Wolbachia laced mosquitoes, studies show Wolbachia enhances Malaria in mosquitos.  Many Lyme/MSIDS patients already struggle with Babesia, a malarial-like organism.

This article states CRISPR has the potential to cause cancer in a whole generation of humans: (Excerpt below)

Emma Haapaniemi, a co-author of the Karolinska Institute study, explained why this is such a concerning find.

“By picking cells that have successfully repaired the damaged gene we intended to fix, we might inadvertently also pick cells without functional p53.” Dysfunctional p53 is a major cancer risk; nearly half of ovarian and colorectal cancers can be connected to a disruption in p53. Many other types of cancer, like lung, pancreatic, stomach, liver and breast cancers, can also be attributed to p53 problems.

“If transplanted into a patient, as in gene therapy for inherited diseases, such cells could give rise to cancer, raising concerns for the safety of CRISPR-based gene therapies,” Haapaniemi added.


Lastly, with Brazil’s recent explosion of microcephaly, the introduction of yet another man-made intervention (Wolbachia laced mosquitos) should be considered in evaluating potential causes and cofactors. And while the CDC is bound and determined to blame the benign virus, Zika, there are numerous other factors that few are considering – as well as the synergistic effect of all the variables combined. Microcephaly could very well be a perfect storm of events.,,

So besides the unintended consequences of mutations and enhancement of other potential pathogens, and cancer in humans, is the issue of ethics.  Here’s some telling quotes:

“It is essential that national regulatory authorities and international organizations get on top of this — really get on top of it,” says Kenneth Oye, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lead author of the Science commentary. “We need more action.” The US National Research Council has formed a panel to discuss gene drives, and other high-level discussions are starting to take place, but Oye is concerned that regulatory changes may happen only after a high-profile gene-drive release, in other words, after it’s too late. (For a five minute audio of reporter Kerri Smith investigating the meteoric rise of CRISPR click on the link above.

On top of those difficulties, scientists do not know how all of this will affect ecosystems and are unclear if the gene drives could spread to closely related species.

Noam Prywes, PhD candidate in chemistry at Harvard, claims that CRISPR/Cas-9-based gene drives will

“add a twist – introducing one gene drive after another to correct unforeseen consequences as they are discovered,” and that “decisions by researchers would become permanently written into the genomes of entire wild populations.” He also adds that there are alternative ways to wipe out local populations of mosquitoes carrying disease that are much safer.

In this same vein, David Burwitz of Tel Aviv University, feels that gene drive research should be classified to prevent weapon development, and he’s not alone. In theory, a terrorist could create a handful of insects with a gene for making a toxin, and power it with a gene drive. Pretty soon, all of these insects would make the toxin, and every insect bite would be lethal. However, according to Austin Burt, who proposed the theoretical method for making gene drives, the gene drives only work in sexually reproducing species, unlike the vast majority of genetically engineered microbes which produce asexually and they’ve only been shown to work for one generation – so far.

I’m with Dr. Rawls and Dr. Donta, “Don’t mess with Mother Nature.”  That’s what got us in this mess to begin with.







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