KINGSTON — As blacklegged ticks, carrying the unpleasant-to-intolerable Lyme disease, increase their ranges and populations across the province, they’re bringing a dangerous and stealthy condition with them.
As many as 20 per cent of ticks carry Lyme disease, which can have a broad range of symptoms and cause a variety of conditions. One of the most dangerous is Lyme carditis, when the bacteria that causes Lyme attacks the electrical system in the heart. Left untreated, it can leave an otherwise healthy patient reliant on a pacemaker for the rest of his life.
Dr. Adrian Baranchuk, of the Kingston General Hospital Research Unit, has documented five cases of Lyme carditis in the last 18 months. As many as 10 per cent of people who catch Lyme disease can develop the dangerous condition, and Baranchuk has created a system to test for it.
Called the SILC scale (Suspicious Index in Lyme Carditis), it’s a tool for physicians to quickly test if the patient has Lyme carditis. A few key indicators are: The patient is under 50, is male, has been outdoors in the last 45-60 days, was in an area where ticks prefer — fields with long grass — has common symptoms like fever, vomiting or joint pain, or has the telltale bull’s-eye rash.
He’s currently writing the protocol and looking for other hospitals to start using the scale to test how accurate it is in real-life situations.
The value is simple: A patient suffering from Lyme carditis can recover with 10 days of IV antibiotics. Otherwise, he’ll likely end up with a pacemaker, requiring half a dozen or more surgeries to replace the batteries over a lifetime.