Magazine article Science News

Picking out the Lymes from the Lemons

Magazine article Science News

Picking out the Lymes from the Lemons

Article excerpt

Ever since Lyme disease became well known back in the '70s, Lyme-transmitting ticks have aroused a public worry much like that caused by frothy-mouthed dogs. And with 1,282 cases of Lyme disease reported across the United States so far this year, no one denies that the disease poses a real health threat. But some researchers are beginning to wonder whether Lyme may produce a previously undocumented symptom: paranoia.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington and the Yale-New Haven Hospital examined 70 children diagnosed with Lyme disease and found that only 53 percent of them actually harbored the Lyme-causing bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi. The remaining 47 percent, they discovered, had been misdiagnosed. To confirm these findings, the researchers telephoned parents of teh misdiagnosed children one to three years later and found that advanced symptoms of the disease never materialized.

"The problem of Lyme disease is real, but I think a lot of people have become hysterical about it, including some doctor," says study coauthor Henry M. Feder Jr., a pediatrician at the University of Connecticut Health Center. Feder reported his group's findings at the American Pediatric Society meeting in Baltimore last week.

In its early stages, Lyme disease produces symptoms -- such as fever and muscular aches -- similar to those of many other illnesses. This makes diagnosis difficult. "If a doctor sees a patient and wants to make the symptoms fit Lyme disease, he can do it. …

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