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Faculty Spotlight: Robert Ollar, Ph.D.

NYMC Takes Lead on Lyme Disease Mimicry: When Lyme Disease Looks Like Alzheimer’s

Robert Ollar, Ph.D.A clinical assistant professor of neurology at New York Medical College (NYMC), Robert Ollar, Ph.D., recently published research that seeks to shine more light on Lyme disease mimicry, a phenomenon in which Lyme manifests symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases. Dr. Ollar’s published report “Neurologists Take Heed, Lyme Neuroborreliosis Mimicry is Afoot,” was presented at the at the Fourth Annual Lyme Disease in the Era of Precision Medicine Conference, on October 19, in New York City.

Dr. Ollar, who has written numerous articles on the topic of Lyme Neuroborreliosis Mimicry manifesting Alzheimer’s like symptoms verses true Alzheimer’s disease, he will be commencing an investigation in his hometown of Milford, Pennsylvania, where there are an estimated 280,000 Alzheimer’s cases, but no statistics for Alzheimer’s cases where patients test positive for Lyme Neuroborreliosis.

“In my previous study of patients from Pennsylvania with Lyme disease, twenty percent of these patients were shown to have neurological consequences mimicking the classic symptoms of ALS, MS, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s. It’s a real problem yet, few people are looking at mimicry today.” Dr. Ollar believes that his dual background in neurology and microbiology has given him a unique perspective. He is among a small group of researchers and physicians researching the correlation today.

“Every year, some Lyme disease patients are misdiagnosed with serious, untreatable chronic conditions such as Lou Gehrig’s (also known as ALS), Multiple Sclerosis (MS), early onset Alzheimer’s disease, Epilepsy and Parkinson disease with no hope of recovery,” said Dr. Ollar. “When patients are assumed to have an autoimmune disease, they are even put on corticosteroids to suppress their immune systems, an unfortunate outcome for a patient with a chronic infection. The emotional trauma to patients and their loved ones that result when Lyme Neuroborreliosis has been misdiagnosed with an untreatable neurological disease is devastating.”

Dr. Ollar’s research has found that if patients are diagnosed in the early stages of Lyme disease and treated with intravenous antibiotics that target the bacteria, patients may make a full recovery. For example, Dr. Ollar points to the recent, high-profile case in which, “the famous country western singer Kris Kristofferson has become a poster child for Lyme Neuroborreliosis which has been misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease.”

Dr. Ollar said the takeaway is this: “It is the utmost importance to develop new lab-based assays for improved early and accurate detection of Neuroborrelial infections and other tick born infections. It would be extremely useful for a clinician to have assays which monitored the efficacy of therapy as a function of changes in the pathogen load and eventually clearance of the pathogen from the patient. And it is incumbent upon all physicians, to be ready to think outside the box when it comes to considering the possibility of a potential microbial agent as the “raison d’être” of patient neuropathology.”