tick-borne diseases


As Chief Scientific Officer of GLA, I herewith respond to the solicitation for feedback to the National Institutes of Health Tick-borne Diseases Strategic Plan, which was developed by the Tick-Borne Disease Working Group, a Health & Human Services advisory committee established by Congress in its 21st Century Cures Act. While the plan includes important topics on which research efforts should focus, our position is that it neglects several urgent areas that are of equal or higher importance.

Deficiencies in the current Strategic Plan include:

  1. The lack of any mention under the heading “Basic Research of the need to better understand mechanisms of bacterial persistence both in reservoir species and in the face of exposure to antibiotics and the implications for treatment failure and persistent infection/symptomatology.
  2. The lack of mention under the heading “Diagnosis and Detection” of the need to supplement indirect diagnostic tests, that rely upon the presence of antibodies, with direct tests that detect the presence of pathogen-specific protein antigens or nucleic acid. Additionally, the testing paradigm needs to shift towards multi-pathogen (bacterial, viral, etc.) rather than solely Lyme disease diagnoses.
  3. The lack of mention under the heading “Therapeutics” of the need to develop novel treatment strategies for those suffering from multiple tick-borne and/or opportunistic infections. Additionally, there is a need to explore non-traditional treatment modalities to care for patients continuing to suffer from persistent infection/symptomatology due to initial antibiotic treatment failure.

The list also underemphasizes (1) the ecology and management of ticks; (2) ecological interactions between ticks, hosts, and pathogens; and (3) environmental drivers of tick emergence, spread, and changing risk. Specifically, the plan lacks:

  1. Mention of national surveillance of ticks and tick-borne pathogens that would provide real-world representations of exposure risk in space and time;
  2. Any mention of finding vulnerabilities in the tick/host/pathogen life cycle and of the importance of seeking the means of exploiting such vulnerabilities to control exposure;
  3. A focus on identifying and ameliorating anthropogenic disturbances (land use changes, climate change, habitat degradation, etc.) that exacerbate tick-borne risk;
  4. Recognition of the importance of understanding how both native and non-native ticks (e.g., black-legged ticks, lone star ticks, long-horned ticks, etc.) become invasive, rapidly expand beyond their historic geographic ranges, and potentially share hosts and pathogens; and
  5. A focus on novel and existing methods to reduce tick populations.

It is our institutional view that any set of research priorities on tick-borne diseases in the United States must address these essential issues. We hope that by pointing out these omissions you will be allowed to redress their absence in a final draft of the NIH’s Tick-borne Diseases Strategic Plan.


Timothy J Sellati


Timothy J. Sellati, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer
Global Lyme Alliance



It saddens me that still after over 40 years, the basics need to be pointed out to the people running the show.  The issues delineated in this letter are so basic a kindergartner could explain them, yet authorities treat this as a one pathogen illness using testing that’s like throwing sand into the ocean.

My only concern with #3 in the last series is the mention of “climate change” when independent Canadian tick researcher, John Scott, has completely blown that “theory” out of the water showing ticks to be very ecoadaptive and able to survive harsh conditions by merely crawling under leaf litter or snow:

Nothing has resulted from ANY data on the climate in helping very ill patients.

Recently advocate Carl Tuttle delineated 10 ways on how to maintain the illusion that the Lyme/MSIDS pandemic is under control:

See link for references and entire article.  List below developed article:

1. Produce a two tier antibody testing algorithm where first line screening tests (Elisa) fail to detect 60% of infections. Those patients who do test positive will be allowed the second more sensitive test (Western blot) but design the test with strict criteria (Case definition) so as to rule out 90% keeping infection numbers artificially low.

2. Fund only those studies through institutions with researchers that have a bias against persistent infection.

3. Maintain a belief that all stages of infection, acute through late stage are easily cured with a standard two week treatment guideline and turn the disease into a syndrome when patients complain of persistent debilitating symptoms after unsuccessful treatment.

4. If a culture test should be developed which is the gold standard for many bacterial infections do not recognize this test and insist it is not government approved.

5. Create a map depicting limited territories were the infection is present.Use an existing institution with a bias against persistent infection to manage the data.

6. Define the disease exclusively as a zoonotic illness and disregard congenital and gestational transfer cases or transfer between sexually active couples.

7. No need to screen the blood supply for this pathogen.

8. Ignore Primate studies proving persistent infection.

9. Create a foundation to promote the disinformation campaign and staff the foundation with the same researchers with a bias against persistent infection.

10. Create a Working Group to talk about the problem for another decade (submitting reports every two years) without upgrading the threat to Highest Alert even though infection rates may exceed five times the AIDS epidemic or become twice as prevalent as breast cancer.