QUEENSBURY – Dr. Timothy Sellati, an infectious disease researcher at Trudeau Institute, has “a little pie-in-the-sky” idea for research on the feasibility of developing a method to vaccinate white footed mice against the Lyme disease causing pathogen which ticks carry from the mice to humans.
“It’s much easier from a logistical perspective and a regulatory perspective to design a vaccine that would cure mice of Lyme disease … and whatever else it might be carrying and allowing the ticks to acquire from them, than it would be to vaccinate the human population,” Seallati said at a Lyme disease forum U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, organized Saturday at SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury.
The need for innovative thinking in research, diagnosis, insurance coverage and regulatory policy on Lyme disease and other tick borne illnesses was a central theme at the more than three-hour forum.
“We are all here today because tick-borne diseases are wreaking our lives,” Stefanik said.
Nearly 400 people attended the forum at which scientists, politicians and advocates called for a concerted effort to raise awareness about Lyme disease.
“Obviously a very necessary meeting when you get this many people,” said state Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury.
When regulators do not have quality data and Lyme disease sufferers do not have adequate access to treatment, it makes the cost factor in the equation significantly off balance, she said.
“Outcomes are often neglected (by regulatory agencies),” said Dr. Daniel Cameron, president of International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society.
Many people with undiagnosed Lyme disease become disabled, increasing the cost of public entitlement programs, and others spend a lot of money going from one doctor to another, without getting a diagnosis, said Dr. Richard Horowitz, medical director of Hudson Valley Healing Arts Center in Hyde Park.
Overall health care costs would be reduced over time with improved diagnosis, he said.
Rep. Chris Gibson discussed legislation that passed the House in July that required the federal government to form a “working group” of federal agencies and citizen experts to coordinate federal research and policy priorities for Lyme disease and similar tick-borne diseases.
Dr. Garth Ehrlich, professor of microbiology at Drexel University, state Sens. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, and Susan Serino, R-Hyde Park, and Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, also spoke at the forum.