Tuesday May 29, I spoke on a resolution on Lyme Disease and the need to have more attention paid to Lyme Disease. My comments (from Hansard) are below.
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): I want to thank the MLA for Emerson for bringing this resolution forward. Lyme disease is an important and serious condition and it needs to be taken seriously.
It's appropriate that the MLA from Emerson is bringing it forward because the southern part of the Red River Valley in Manitoba has been the area where a high proportion of the cases have–coming from, and I have, like the MLA for Emerson, talked to Elizabeth Wood and others who have contracted Lyme disease and have a history with it, and paid quite a bit of attention to it.
Sadly, it hasn't always been taken as seriously as it should have been, but I'm glad that it is going to be now and I look forward to the Lyme disease clinic developing.
The bacteria is interesting because it is a spirochete and it is a spirochete very similar to the spirochete which causes syphilis, and both Lyme disease and syphilis can be associated in their chronic phases with very serious neurological and other complications.
And it is interesting that those who have looked genetically at the bacteria, the spirochete which causes syphilis and the spirochete which causes Lyme disease, have found that there are 476 shared protein coding section; that's to say that there's some significant similarity as well as some differences.
Spirochetes kind of look like squiggles but they move a bit like corkscrews. The significant thing about the spirochete nature of the organism which causes Lyme disease is their ability, as with the spirochete which causes syphilis, they have the ability to worm their way into tight spaces in our bodies in a way that externally flagellated bacteria can't. In fact, they can drive in this spirochetal way just about anywhere that they want. They're able to cross basement membranes, the linings of organs like intestines, crossing endothelial barriers–barriers which would normally keep other types of bacteria out of the body, and so that syphilis and Lyme disease both need to be taken particularly seriously because the symptoms, as they progress in a chronic form, if it's not treated adequately, can be very brutal with damage to multiple organs, joints, brain and nervous system as a result of the spreading inflammation.
Now we need to be very concerned about Lyme disease for a number of reasons. As I've said too often in the past, it has been missed and not treated adequately. For many years, it was said that there's no Lyme disease in Manitoba, but I've received information about a woman who had a tick bite and a rash in 1990 and two positive Lyme disease titres, but was dismissed as not likely Lyme disease because it doesn't exist, or it didn't exist, or it was believed not to exist in Manitoba at that point.
As I've said, it's a very serious condition when it becomes chronic and so it needs to be treated well and quickly when at all possible.
One of the reasons why it can be more serious and tougher to treat is that there can be, from time to time, co-infections, that the ticks which transmit Lyme disease can transmit other infections as well, and so sometimes, it is a matter not just of treating the Lyme disease but of treating the co-infections as well if you're going to get somebody healthy, and I'm sure that the physicians in the Lyme disease clinic will be experts in this whole area.
With climate change, this Lyme disease concern is likely to get worse, and whereas it was most frequently found in the southern Red River Valley, it's now being found much more broadly. And interestingly enough, it would appear that it can be spread by birds from time to time, with birds taking deer ticks beyond where one would normally consider that they would be found and endemic.
It is really good that we're going to have the Lyme disease clinic because, as I see it, that clinic will likely function not just to treat Lyme disease, but a source of information to other physicians and to people around Manitoba who want to know what's happening with Lyme disease in the province, and being able, in this fashion, to be effective in an area of prevention.
I would suggest that it will be important to have some research going on in conjunction with the clinic to make sure that what we are doing is adapted well to Manitoba and we are incorporating and using the very best possible treatments.
There is, I think, the opportunity, particularly with the federal laboratory that we have here, to have work done on a vaccine to prevent Lyme disease, which could be used in areas where it's endemic, and could be used for people who are going to be out in the field in areas where there are considerable amounts of Lyme disease.
I think there may actually be a vaccine which is used in dogs, for example, and that there's no reason that this vaccine could not only be developed but could be tested here, and that would be very useful.
The Lyme disease can be very difficult to treat when it becomes chronic. Sometimes that can be because of the co-infections. Sometimes that can be because the spirochetes are, as it were, hiding in difficult-to-access places for antibiotics, which would be able to treat and to kill the spirochetes.
And I have personally talked to individuals who had Lyme disease, a chronic form of Lyme disease, who were able to get on high doses –and long-term doses–and who, on such high and long-term doses, having had their lives devastated by Lyme disease, are able to function much better.
This is an area which, in what I know, is still quite controversial, but I would add that from the anecdotal evidence that I've seen, talking with people who've had Lyme disease, that it's something which needs to be taken into consideration.
I want to thank all those who are involved in developing the Lyme disease clinic. I want to wish you well. It is an important initiative for Manitoba. It is one which will become even more important as we have continuing increased warm weather and climate change.
And I wish you well, and I hope that you're able to set up, as I'm sure you will, a wonderful clinic will which be a resource to all of Manitoba.
So thank you.
I need to add in clarification that the Lyme Disease clinic mentioned above is not yet functioning. I asked the MLA for Emerson about this. My question and his comments are below:
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): The member for Emerson has said that there is a Lyme disease clinic or that a Lyme disease clinic is being developed.
Can the member clarify the status of the clinic and, if it's in development, when it is expected to be open?
Mr. Graydon: Thank you very much for the question from the member.
And I would point out that at this point, when things are being developed like this, they want to do it properly so that it is servicing Manitoba and all Manitobans. And so I can't give you a definite answer. It isn't completed yet, but it is in a development stage. And if you'll pay attention to what we have said we were going to do in the past and what we have already got accomplished, you can bet on it that it's going to get done in the near future.