Sunday, September 30, 2012

Who will win the all-important Lyme conspiracy theorist vote?

I have no idea, but the Romney-Ryan campaign seems to have the advantage. Slate and the Weekly Standard describe the details of a direct mail campaign in Virginia, courting the votes of those who believe that there exists a conspiracy to underdiagnose and undertreat Lyme Disease. Here’s an excerpt from the mailer:
Encourage increased options for treatment of Lyme Disease and provide local physicians with protection from lawsuits to ensure they can treat the disease with the aggressive antibiotics that are required.
Translation: we’re in favor of protecting doctors who commit malpractice and place patients’ lives at risk by prescribing weeks of unnecessary antibiotic therapy for a disease that their patients do not have.

During my first few years of infectious diseases practice, I was asked to consult on a young mother admitted to the ICU for severe sepsis due to drug-resistant Pseudomonas, acquired by virtue of the weeks of intravenous ceftriaxone she’d been prescribed for a misdiagnosis of “chronic Lyme”. Her actual diagnosis was post-partum depression, for which she was eventually treated successfully, after barely surviving her hospitalization. Others haven’t been so lucky.


  1. I get nervous when scientists start talking about politics and political campaigns--- which are cesspools of biased and slanted arguments. The SLATE is a notoriously poor source of information. I don't know anything about the Weekly Standard but I am not sure if they checked with Romney and Ryan about their opinions on this matter. Regardless, there is enough slime to sling at both candidates in this election when it comes to their opinions about healthcare that I would be careful about mounting any high horses or assuming that campaign fliers are realistic sources of information about the future. Remember Hope and Change?

  2. Hi D,

    I agree that it is best for this blog to stay far away from politics, and we generally try to do that, even when political debate directly impacts our areas of interest (though we have been vocal about spending reductions that impact CDC and other infection prevention funding).

    As soon as I posted this item, I thought it might be a mistake. Not because it had a political bent (I would have posted the same thing if the Obama team sent out a similar mailer), but because it ventures into the "chronic Lyme" debate, which is now so FUBAR that it really isn't a debate at all. It's just a mess--and I thought I'd probably need to delete the post if the comment section began to resemble that of the widely-read blogs on the topic. But I posted anyway, because the topic bears directly on some areas of interest for this blog, notably patient safety and appropriate use of central venous catheters and antibiotics.

    As to whether Romney knows anything about the flyer or the issue, I'm fairly sure he does--after all, he recently gave a private audience to Michael Farris to discuss Lyme Disease. More background on that can be found here: