The Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health has received a $1.9 million grant from the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation for tick-borne disease research. The grant will support research into the role in human disease of known and as-yet-to be-discovered tick-borne bacteria and viruses by determining the tick microbiome and testing for the presence of potential pathogens using molecular and serological methods.
[Photo: Dr. Ian Lipkin]
“I was shocked to learn how many people suffer from Lyme disease in silence, and how much we still need to do to raise awareness and help find a cure,” said Mr. Alex Cohen, president of the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation. “This gift is incredibly personal to me as I have experienced, first-hand, the chronic and debilitating side effects of this understudied disease. We share the Center for Infection and Immunity’s desire to find a cure for Lyme disease and hope that this gift will help pave the way to that important work.”
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. There are about 329,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year, according to CDC statistics. As a result of the difficulty in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, as many as one million Americans may be suffering from the impact of its debilitating long-term symptoms.
“Our hypothesis is that some patients with ongoing symptoms who have not responded to antibiotics known to be effective against Borrelia may be infected with viruses or other antibiotic resistant bacteria,” said Dr. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity. “This generous award from the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation will allow us to pursue discovery and surveillance efforts needed to rigorously test this hypothesis.”