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  • Julie Lewis MDSc, PhD Candidate

Julie Lewis MDSc, PhD Candidate

Julie Lewis MDSc, PhD Candidate

New Brunswick, Canada
Université de Moncton and Mount Allison University

Biography

Julie Lewis is a PhD student at the Université de Moncton and Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada. Her primary research interest involves infectious diseases at the molecular and cellular level.

To investigate the infectious hypothesis as the cause of Morgellons disease, her current work seeks to characterize pathogen-host interactions of Morgellons samples derived from human and domesticated animal patients. For her Masters, Julie assessed the risk of Lyme disease by testing ticks from Atlantic Canada for the widespread Borrelia species, Borrelia burgdorferi, a member of the Borrelia group responsible for Lyme disease.

Through this work, she identified an evolving threat for the emerging disease - infected ticks expanding away from known endemic areas. Julie also detected Borrelia bissettii, another Borrelia species of the Lyme group that was recently introduced in Canada, in ticks found feeding on humans and dogs; thereby reporting, for the first time, an existing health risk for Lyme disease from this understudied Borrelia species in New Brunswick.

Abstract

Topic: Evidence of bacterial co-infections in Morgellons and Lyme patients

Lewis, J. 1,2,3, Lloyd, V.K. 1,2, Robichaud, G.A. 1,3

1 Université de Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada 2 Mount Allison University, New Brunswick, Canada 3 Atlantic Cancer Research Institute, Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre, New Brunswick, Canada

Morgellons disease is a multisystemic disease manifested by skin lesions with embedded multicolor fibers. Controversy exists regarding the origin of the disease; some consider this disease to be purely psychological while others uphold a biological provenance, based on findings of atypical keratin and collagen fibers in patients as well as an association with the Lyme group bacteria, Borrelia sp. This study explores whether Lyme patients who develop Morgellons disease do so from co-infections with Borrelia in conjunction with a tick-vectored endobacteria. Endobacteria are intracellular bacteria that have diverse epigenetic effects on their host and we postulate that endobacterial infections alter gene expression in fibroblasts and keratinocytes to produce Morgellons fibers.

Various samples were collected by clinical partners from consented volunteers diagnosed with Morgellons and Lyme disease as well as controls. Samples were incubated for 8 weeks in BSK-H medium and tested for Borrelia and Rickettsia by nested PCR and sequencing. Our first aim was to detect and compare the presence of Borrelia and Rickettsia in cultures of Morgellons and Lyme patients versus controls. We have obtained preliminary evidences of endobacterial co-infections in diverse clinical samples derived from Morgellons and Lyme patients. Although preliminary, these findings support further in vitro experiments on altered gene expression in cultured cells with defined induced endobacterial infections.