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Deep into his 80’s, Dr. Burton Waisbren Sr. not only still maintains an active practice at his Milwaukee, Wisconsin clinic treating people with “problem diseases,” he also writes about it. In his new book, Treatment of Chronic Lyme Disease  (iUniverse, $24.95), Waisbren chronicles 51 cases, many of them seriously ill people he treated with success after other doctors turned them away for lack of “scientific evidence” that they were sick.

Waisbren said he wrote the book because he thinks Lyme has become a national epidemic that warrants more attention than it is currently getting from the government and academic medical establishment. The book is filled with technical information intended to start a dialog among medical professionals, and at the same time it details personal battles with Lyme of interest to everyone. (The book can be purchased at www.waisbrenclinic.com.)

Reported incidences of Lyme, a tick-borne bacterial infection, have increased dramatically in recent years, now surpassing AIDS as the nation’s fastest growing infectious disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The highest risk for Lyme occurs throughout much of the Northeast (from Maine to northern Virginia) and the upper Midwest (Wisconsin, Minnesota and northern Illinois), but cases have been reported in every state.

It’s the unreported cases that most concern Waisbren, a specialist in infectious disease and immunology. A native Milwaukeean, he was director of the infectious disease division of Marquette Medical School and the Medical College of Wisconsin for 18 years, and medical director of the St. Mary’s Hospital Burn Center for 20 years.  

Beginning in 1989, patients started coming to him who complained of symptoms associated with Lyme disease, but who had not been able to get treatment for it elsewhere. Some of them were dismissed because of negative blood tests.

“There’s no (good) test for it,” he says. “Diagnosis has to be based on exposure to ticks and on symptoms.”

Some of his patients were ignored by doctors who did not believe Lyme disease existed in their part of the country, even patients who displayed the characteristic bulls-eye-like Lyme rash.

Many of Waisbren’s patients came to him after undergoing work-ups at leading hospitals only to be told that their symptoms were somatic. Others were mistakenly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis because of certain neurological symptoms.

Nearly all the patients in the book described themselves as being healthy, fit and physically active until shortly after a nature hike, picnic, or other foray into tick-infested areas. Almost overnight they began to suffer from a variety of debilitating symptoms including excessive fatigue, joint and muscle pains and aches, “brain fog,” skin rashes, neurological and gastrointestinal dysfunction.

In both teaching and treating, Waisbren says he has always practiced what he calls “investigative internal medicine,” a process of searching for solutions to difficult cases. This path, he says, has allowed him to make inroads and discoveries.

For instance, Waisbren says he observed that a significant number of patients who came to him with multiple sclerosis symptoms responded well to antibiotics, whether or not it was known that Lyme was the underlying cause. It led him to conclude that “early MS should be treated for Lyme if the patient lives in Lyme country.”

Lyme, like MS, is an autoimmune disease. It is one of many debilitating diseases—such as Parkinson’s disease, chronic fatigue, early Alzheimer’s, ALS, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia—for which Lyme is frequently mistaken.

Waisbren is a founding member of the Infectious Disease Society of America, (IDSA), but disagrees with that group’s position that Lyme bacteria are eradicated after a short course of antibiotics. “If symptoms persist after a few weeks of treatment, they say it’s a somatic syndrome.

“It would be hard for me to conclude that the fifty-one cases in my book are a figment of my imagination,” quips Waisbren, whose book documents numerous successes treating chronic Lyme with long-term antibiotic therapies.

With appropriate monitoring, long-term antibiotic use does not pose undue risk, according to Waisbren. “Back in the 1950’s, when many of these drugs were first coming out, infectious disease doctors studied and used them widely,” he says. “We would put children with rheumatic fever on penicillin for twenty years or more to prevent strep throat and it (the penicillin) did not hurt them,” he says.

Waisbren and other practitioners who treat Lyme outside of IDSA guidelines note that the Lyme bacterium, (like its cousin that causes syphilis) is a spirochete, capable of penetrating the tissues, where it is difficult for the immune system to fight it. Further complicating treatment, he says, is that fact that more than one microorganism is usually involved.

Most doctors and insurance companies adhere to IDSA guidelines for dealing with Lyme. Waisbren details the dilemma of more than one patient who could not afford to continue treatment after an insurance company declined coverage. However, many of the patients chronicled in the book were able to remain in treatment long enough to show marked improvement or complete recovery.

Waisbren has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed medical journals and has written other books dealing with methods of critical care and medical emergencies. The new book may be ordered at www.waisbrenclinic.com, a site which also offers links to Waisbren’s many other observations through the years as an “investigative” physician.

Originally posted to Fran Zell on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 01:44 PM PDT.

Also republished by Lyme Disease Awareness, Badger State Progressive, and KosAbility.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for this report (11+ / 0-)

    I have his book, which I got from amazon. There are some customer comments there; so far I have only read portions of the book.

    I am in treatment for Lyme disease myself, over two years now on oral antibiotics. I have to say, the dosages Dr. Waisbren mentions sound like major artillery to me. I suffer from frequent, difficult Herxheimer reactions and have to keep my doses fairly low to stay functional. Well, every patient is different.

    We need more books like this to help bring LD out of the closet. We also need better testing technology so that the ridiculous argument that the disease 'doesn't exist' can be put to rest.

    ~On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Raise her glowing flame!~ I am proud to say three generations of my family lived in WI. Though I live elsewhere, am with you in spirit!

    by sillia on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 02:44:38 PM PDT

  •  Republished to Lyme Disease Awareness (8+ / 0-)

    group on DKos. For people looking for more info on this disease, we had a whole rash (!) of diaries last spring and you'll find lots of good links and stories there.

    ~On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Raise her glowing flame!~ I am proud to say three generations of my family lived in WI. Though I live elsewhere, am with you in spirit!

    by sillia on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 02:53:57 PM PDT

  •  I know that I am going to regret this... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kareylou, FarWestGirl

    The Lyme Disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, is sensitive to antibiotics. A standard course wipes it out.

    Long term use of antibiotics is extremely dangerous. It promotes the emergence of antibiotice resistant pathogens and changes the human microbiota in unpredicable ways. We have more bacteria cells in our bodies than human cells, so this is not a minor issue.

    The idea of "Chronic Lyme Disease" has been around for decades. Almost all major researchers and Lyme Disease specialists have all rejected it.

    •  this is a common viewpoint. (4+ / 0-)

      This was Dr Waisbren's viewpoint many years ago, before he spent a couple decades successfully treating people for this "nonexistent" disease.
           Infectious disease doctors are split on the subject, but in Loudoun County Virginia at least, many of them are coming around to admitting that Lyme disease is an epidemic, and the idea that it is easy to get rid of with one course of a single antibiotic is a dangerous one.
           Have you watched the documentary "Under Our Skin"? It is available online for free and is quite watchable. It provides a lot of support for the viewpoint that Lyme disease is more prevalent than we currently know, and that it is not necessarily eradicated with current treatment.
           In addition, there are many more tick-borne diseases than Borrelia. Some of them do not respond to the course of antibiotics given for Borrelia. So, for example, if you got bitten by a tick and went in for a standard course of doxycycline, you might get rid of the Borrelia, but that tick could also be carrying Bartonella, Babesia, or other pathogens that need different treatment.
           Like most things, it is a complex subject and our knowledge is evolving.

      To keep our faces turned toward change, and behave as free spirits in the presence of fate--that is strength undefeatable. (Helen Keller)

      by kareylou on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 03:56:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't dispute that Lyme Disease is an epidemic. (2+ / 0-)

        I first heard about it at scientific conferences on vector-borne disease in the 1980s (I worked on malaria and mosqutos then). It has been spreading relentlessly, mostly due to the increase in the population of white-tailed deer. When we moved to West Virginia in 1987 it had not gotten here yet, but it came through a few years later.

        The big problem with Lyme is that it is difficult to diagnose. If the bulls-eye rash is not present, its symptoms resemble many minor illnesses. I know several people who had chronic fatigue for years before being diagnosed with Lyme. A second problem with Lyme (and any other inflammatory disease) is that treating the primary cause may not relieve the secondary symptoms if it has been going on for a long time.

        I have been doing research on Borrelia burgdorferi for the last year or so and have read several books and many research articles on it during that time. I have met several of the major researchers over the years and they uniformly reject the idea of chronic Lyme Disease.

        If you get a different disease from a tick bite, it will not respond like Lyme. That is especially true of Babesia, which is not a bacteria.

        •  cool. (5+ / 0-)

          What sort of research have you been doing?
          In my situation, I tested positive for all three--Borrelia, Bartonella, and Babesia (CDC positive, by the way). My symptoms persisted after the normal course of treatment, and even worsened.
          I don't think that there is any question that symptoms persist after 28 days of antibiotic treatment, so in that case we can say that "chronic lyme disease" does exist. The only question is whether the cause is continuing infection, continuing inflammation, or more recent research indicates that it may be a reaction to Borrelia antigen that remains after the Borelia is killed. (at least in the case of Lyme arthritis).
          My own symptoms are much better when I am on antibiotics. That would seem to indicate continued infection; however, I am aware that antibiotics are anti-inflammatory so that could be too.

          To keep our faces turned toward change, and behave as free spirits in the presence of fate--that is strength undefeatable. (Helen Keller)

          by kareylou on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 05:28:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Shamefully Misinformed (0+ / 0-)

          You fancy yourself knowledgeable on a topic that you clearly do not understand nearly as well as you think you do. You've talked to major researchers ... big whoop. Anyone who has studied the politics of Lyme knows damn well that "major researchers" means those connected with the IDSA, whose work has been influenced by conflicts of interest with lab ownerships, patents, royalties and insurance consultancies.

          Apparently in your quest for knowledge you studiously avoided "major researchers" with opposing or at least less dogmatic views, like Sam Donta, Brian Fallon, Steve Barthold, Mario Phillipe, Willie Burgdorfer, and others. You also, in your study of the research, must have missed out on the Straubinger dog studies, the Barthold mouse studies, and the Embers monkey studies, all of which have proven that the bacteria can persist despite being treated with the courses of antibiotics recommended by your "major researchers". The only piece yet to be proven is whether the persisting bacteria cause disease. But there are case studies, like the Vicki Logan case, in which the Lyme bacteria was cultured from post-mortem biopsies in a woman who had been treated with antibiotics off and on for years.

          The result of garbage in is garbage out. If I posted crap like you did, I would regret it too.

          As to what is most responsible for creating antibiotic resistant bacteria, it is under-treatment rather than over-treatment. But if you really want to go on a crusade against the dangers of too much antibiotics, your time would be better spent looking into the antibiotics used in animal feed and the years of treatment given to teenagers for acne. You know how they're dropping dead right and left from that.

          But seriously, thanks for your concern and well intentioned desire to save all of us sick people from ourselves and the only doctors who have succeeded in helping us to feel better.

          I would suggest you read the book "Cure Unknown" by Pam Weintraub if you really want to know what's going on with Lyme disease.

  •  You know what would be nice? (5+ / 0-)

    Seeing a Lyme disease diary on the rec list.

    To keep our faces turned toward change, and behave as free spirits in the presence of fate--that is strength undefeatable. (Helen Keller)

    by kareylou on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 03:57:34 PM PDT

  •  Tipped, recced and republished to (5+ / 0-)

    I started with nothing and still have most of it left. - Seasick Steve

    by ruleoflaw on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 10:22:10 PM PDT

  •  This is important. What I now ask doctors (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sillia, churchylafemme

    and other medical and research people what they would do for a person with Syphilis, the answer is treat with anti biotics.

    Many doctors across the country are now quietly treating friends, aquaintances and family members because they are seeing so much suffering. Tens of thousands and more are recovering from an array of symptoms that range from mild to life threatening.

    The FDA has ranked antibiotics as a class in the least toxic medications given to humans. This ranking includes ratings much more dangerous for drugs used more routinely such as Lipitor, the "Purple Pill" and other meds millions take daily.

    One last bit about antibiotics written here earlier this year: over 90% of antibiotics are used in the US are applied in agriculture both in animals and on crops.

    On a personal note: as several here know I was helped greatly by intense courses of IV antibiotics and other antimicrobials for Babesia and Bartonella prior to 2005. Since then I have lead a quieter but predictable life. This May and June I was treated with combinations of anti biotics for suspected Pertussis followed by pnuemonia. This course of treament reactivated the slow growing infections.

    What was reported in the book is true for me: I have had symptoms at various times that look and feel like MS, ALS and Parkinsons. Also increasing allergies to food, meds and environment. Worst of all, disregulation of fluid management systems in the Pituitary and Hypothalamus, which nearly lead to fatal wasting. My disability was granted on Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue.

    The key here is that all these symptoms and some horrific suffering resolved even up to two years after a year plus of IV treatment. Fatigue and cognitive losses were the most persisting during remission.

    The climate in medicine is changing: my entire medical team believes that Borreliosis has been reactivated due to the huge hit to my immune system and that it was a question of when not if.

    I am not looking forward to re entering treatment, but I will have a Groshong line install next Tuesday and right now I cannot do more than live bed ridden and have to watch and test anything I ingest. This will resolve. Getting there will take all the guts I have. But if I can get through the worst I will resume planning for the next years of life with my DH.

    Science is hell bent on consensus. Dr. Michael Crichton said “Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing to do with consensus... which is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right,”

    by Regina in a Sears Kit House on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 09:39:38 AM PDT

    •  I have been thinking of you (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      churchylafemme

      I am glad to hear your medical team is on it.
      Take good care of yourself! Hang in there and think of the book you'll write someday...

      ~On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Raise her glowing flame!~ I am proud to say three generations of my family lived in WI. Though I live elsewhere, am with you in spirit!

      by sillia on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 03:03:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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