New Test Can Differentiate Between Tick-borne Illnesses

iStock
iStock

Time is of the essence in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Fortunately, one new test may be able to help. A report on the test was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Ticks and the diseases they carry are on the rise. One 2016 study found deer ticks—the species that carries Lyme disease—in more than half of the counties in the United States.

The two most common tick-borne illnesses in the U.S. are Lyme disease and southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI). Although their initial symptoms can be the same, they’re caused by different pathogens; Lyme disease comes from infection with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. We don’t know what causes STARI.

"It is extremely important to be able to tell a patient they have Lyme disease as early as possible so they can be treated as quickly as possible," microbiologist and first author Claudia Molins of the CDC said in a statement. "Most Lyme disease infections are successfully treated with a two- to three-week course of oral antibiotics." Infections that aren't treated can lead to fevers, facial paralysis, heart palpitations, nerve pain, arthritis, short-term memory loss, and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

But to date, scientists have yet to create an accurate, consistent early test for Lyme disease, which means people must often wait until they’re very ill. And it’s hard to test for the STARI pathogen when we don’t know what it is.

One team of researchers led by experts at Colorado State University was determined to find a better way. They realized that, rather than looking for pathogens, they could look at the way a person’s body responded to the pathogens.

They analyzed blood samples from patients with both early-stage Lyme disease and STARI. Their results showed that while all patients’ immune systems had mounted a response, the nature of that response was different.

"We have found that all of these infections and diseases are associated with an inflammatory response, but the alteration of the immune response, and the metabolic profiles aren't all the same," senior author John Belisle of CSU said.

Two distinct profiles emerged. The team had found physical evidence, or biomarkers, for each illness: a way to tell one disease from another.

Belisle notes that there’s still plenty of work to do.

"The focus of our efforts is to develop a test that has a much greater sensitivity, and maintains that same level of specificity," Belisle said. "We don't want people to receive unnecessary treatment if they don't have Lyme disease, but we want to identify those who have the disease as quickly as possible."

A Low-Carb Diet Could Shorten Your Lifespan

iStock
iStock

The Atkins, Paleo, and Keto diets may have different gimmicks, but they all share a common message: Carbs are bad and meat is good. Yet a new analysis reported by New Scientist suggests that anyone who buys into this belief may later come to regret it. According to the paper, published in The Lancet Public Health, people who eat a moderate amount of carbs actually live longer than those who avoid them.

For their study, researchers analyzed data previously collected from 15,400 participants in the U.S. They found that people who received about 50 to 55 percent of their calories from carbohydrates had the longest lifespans, roughly four years longer than those who got 30 percent or less of their energy from carbs.

This doesn't necessarily mean that the key to a healthy diet is to stock your pantry with pasta and croissants. The study also showed that people who got up to 70 percent or more of their energy from carbs died one year earlier on average than subjects in the 50 to 55 percent group. A closer examination at the eating of habits of people who ate fewer carbs revealed another layer to the phenomenon: When people avoided carbohydrates in favor of meat, their chances of early death rose, but the opposite was true for people who replaced carb-heavy foods with plant-based fats and proteins, such as nuts, beans, and vegetables.

These numbers point to something dietitians have long been aware of: Eating a diet that's based around animal products isn't ideal. Getting more of your protein from plant-based sources, on the other hand, can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Nonetheless, fad diets that forbid people from eating carbs while letting them eat as much steak as they want are still popular because they're an easy way to lose weight in a short amount of time. But as the research shows, the short-term results are rarely worth the long-term effects on your health.

[h/t New Scientist]

Ocean Explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau's Tips for Dealing With Seasickness

iStock
iStock

Jean-Michel Cousteau—son of the iconic documentary filmmaker and conservationist Jacques Cousteau—claims to have never experienced seasickness himself. The 80-year-old explorer attributes his luck to the amount of time he's spent on boats filming nature documentaries, exploring marine environments, and raising awareness about conservation issues. So what advice does he have when his shipmates start to look a little green around the gills? Thrillist recently reached out to him for an answer.

Cousteau has seen a fellow sailor succumb to the nausea-inducing rocking of a ship many times. When this happens, he says the best thing to do is avoid the bow, or the front of the ship, but resist the urge to hide out below deck—away from any views of the ocean. Motion sickness occurs when the information sensed by our inner ear doesn't match up with what we see in front of us: In the case of sea travel, this could mean you feel the floor of the boat shifting beneath you while the wall of the galley appears to stay still.

Rather than forcing yourself to forget where you are, Cousteau says the most effective approach is to embrace your enemy. Look out at the water and try to appreciate the sights. Staring intently at the horizon will also help re-balance what you're seeing with what you're sensing. Soon you won't be focusing on that queasy feeling in your stomach. “Suddenly, instead of not feeling well, they’re distracted by our profound connection to the oceans," Cousteau told Thrillist.

And if all else fails and your boat is nowhere near dry land, Cousteau suggests a very Cousteau-esque solution: Slip on your scuba gear and get in the water. Of course, that may not be an option depending on what type of voyage you're on. If that's the case, you may want to consider these more conventional motion sickness remedies.

[h/t Thrillist]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios