In this episode of Looking at Lyme, Sarah speaks with Internal Medicine Specialist and Canadian Lyme expert, Dr. Ralph Hawkins. Dr. Hawkins has been treating Lyme patients in Canada for many years, gaining a wealth of knowledge about the disease. He recounts his introduction to the shortcomings of Lyme disease testing in Canada while treating a patient with a history of multiple previous tick bites, many common symptoms of Lyme disease, but a negative Canadian Lyme test. Dr. Hawkins had the patient’s blood tested at a University Lab in New York, revealing test band patterns consistent with Lyme disease. He referred this patient to Infectious Diseases colleagues for treatment, but quickly found out that the diagnosis of late stage Lyme disease is not generally recognized by the Infectious Diseases community. He was advised to not only drop this case, but to avoid other similar cases. The recommendation to avoid such patients sparked Dr. Hawkins’ curiosity and interest, inspiring him to dive deeply into the research and history of Lyme disease.
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Dr. Hawkins walks us through the current testing protocols for Lyme disease in Canada, explaining why some patients with Lyme disease receive a negative test result. He explains the difference between current testing in Canada and tests done in other parts of the world, highlighting a test done in Germany that he often relies on when diagnosing patients, and touching on the approval process for such tests by Health Canada. Without better testing, Canadians with Lyme disease continue to fall through the cracks of the healthcare system. Dr. Hawkins refers to a recent analysis of Lyme diagnosis in Canada in which researchers speculate that in some areas, two thirds of Lyme cases go unreported. With this in mind he points out that, in light of the severity of untreated Lyme disease, a trial period of treatment for Lyme disease would be valid for certain patients with negative Canadian serology. Thank you Dr. Hawkins for walking with us down the bumpy road of Lyme disease testing and treatment in Canada!