Boston University News Release

16th November, 1998

Researchers Discover Possible Key to Lyme Disease

A toxin which may be largely responsible for many of the symptoms associated with Lyme Disease has been identified by Boston University Medical Center (BUMC) researchers. The study results will be presented at the 36th Annual Meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America to be held Friday November 13, 1998 in Denver, Colorado.

Sam T. Donta, MD, Professor of Medicine and Director of the BUMC Lyme Disease Center, and his research team recently identified a substance produced by the Lyme Disease bacterium (B. burgdorferi), which appears to kill nervous system cells.

"If we can learn precisely how the toxin works, we may be able to revolutionize the diagnosis and treatment of this debilitating disease, "says Donta.

The research team does not completely understand how the toxin acts, but theorize that it may work similarly to the botulism, tetanus and cholera toxin. "Lyme Disease patients suffer from many symptoms, and if this toxin is at the root of those, it may be possible to make a vaccine or antitoxin, as is the case with botulism and tetanus," says Donta.

It may be also possible to develop a better test for the disease using the newly identified toxin. "Antibodies to the toxin may appear in the blood, urine, or spinal fluid," notes Donta.

Studies are already underway to identify the specific target of the toxin and its precise role in Lyme Disease.

The research was conducted with the help of a grant from the Thaler Family and Pasiss Family Foundation.

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