The Huffington Post is an entertaining source for political and celebrity gossip. But when it comes to scientific and medical information, it’s really little better than the National Enquirer or a DC comic book. Case in point: a recent column about Lyme disease written by a pill-counting pharmacist whose knowledge of infectious diseases probably is limited to filling scripts for Zithromax and Augmentin. Most of the column is an advertisement for a well-known “Lyme literate” doc and his book on Lyme disease. Here’s the well-known doc on his extraordinary patient population.
Dr. Horowitz explained:
The majority of my patients suffer not only from Lyme disease, but a host of associated tick-borne infections, such as Borrelia hermsii (relapsing fever), Babesia, Bartonella, Mycoplasma, Chlamydia, Rocky mountain spotted fever, Q-fever, Ehrlichia or Anaplasma. Rarely, I see a patient presenting with Tularemia and Brucellosis. To see Borrelia burgdorferi by itself is unusual.
This collection of bugs and associated illness explains why the standard treatment protocol (consisting of 30 days antibiotic therapy) doesn't offer the cure for most sufferers. You can't just blow up bugs. Detoxification, hormone balancing, heavy metal removal and ramping up immune function are equally important.
First, let’s remember what separates the average doctor from the average person: 5 undergrad science courses and one national exam. Then, having gotten into a medical school somewhere, there is little chance of not graduating no matter how incompetent one might be. With that in mind, let’s look at Dr. H’s explanations for why he finds a common bacterial infection so hard to treat.
Apparently, he almost never sees an actual case of plain old Lyme disease. Maybe that’s one of his problems. Imagine never seeing a case of strep throat or otitis media except in the presence of three or four other infectious agents. (Even Gregory House might be stumped.) And then image not understanding that many commonly prescribed antibiotics actually are capable of treating more than one bug in those uncommon cases of acquired co-infections.
And what are his patients doing that they manage to get a sexually-transmitted Chlamydia infection from ticks? Or getting both tularemia and brucellosis? Is there some kind of farm animal bestiality going on in his neck of New York? (Brucellosis is a serious and reportable infection, and false-positive reports can lead to needless trouble as noted here and here. There were 114 cases in the US in 2012. I wonder how many Dr. H called in?)
Q fever is even more incredible to be seeing. It’s rare, but can lead to serious outbreaks. It’s reportable, and again, I’m wondering if Dr. H ever reports any of his alleged cases. It’s not primarily tick-borne so again, if he’s seeing it, where are the reports? It’s hard to treat and can lead to permanent heart problems; why would anyone want to be treated by this guy?
Yet, in the community of self-described “Lyme Literate” docs, it’s easy to understand why one—or all—of their patients might be hosts to multiple pathogens: more money. And the 19th-century detox nonsense, along with the heavy metal alchemy, is just icing on the billing cake. Neither has anything to do with infectious disease, but hey, no gullible patients should be left un-fleeced or un-terrorized into paying for more tests, more drugs, and more pseudoscientific treatments.
I wonder what the Huffington Post has to say about HIV?