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Bull's-Eye: Unraveling the Medical Mystery of Lyme Disease [Hardcover]

Jonathan A. Edlow
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 10 2003
A riveting account of the medical sleuthing that led to the discovery of Lyme disease This fascinating book not only tells the history of the discovery of Lyme disease over centuries and continents but also provides the latest information about the disease and its treatment. In the process it offers revealing details about the medical process: how physicians make a diagnosis, how they test its accuracy, and how scientific inquiry is influenced by its cultural context. Dr. Jonathan Edlow begins his detective story in Lyme, Connecticut, with the accounts of two housewives who in the mid-1970s noticed a baffling array of symptoms afflicting members of their families and others in the community. As physicians studied this strange disease, they were led to reports of similar symptoms in other eras and countries. Edlow chronicles how connections were ultimately established between symptoms and tick bites, leading to the discovery of the stages of the disease, its specific microbial cause, and its treatment. And he brings the story into the twenty-first century by discussing legal and legislative issues as well as factors that have led to recent widespread outbreaks of Lyme disease and to the controversies over its diagnosis, vaccine, treatment, and even its very definition.

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Mark Twain wrote that the difference between fact and fiction is that fiction has to make sense. Edlow, an author of medical detective stories and a Harvard professor of medicine, indulges the luxury facts allow while chronicling the evolution of Lyme disease, and with its blind alleys and plot twists, the story of this puzzling illness validates Twain's statement. Almost nothing about Lyme disease makes sense. From its "discovery" in a rural New England town in the mid-1970s--after it was believed that modern antibiotics had all but eradicated infectious disease--to the ongoing debate over its duration, prevention, treatment, and even diagnosis, it has remained a topic of considerable controversy. As the title, which refers to the concentric, red-ringed lesion resulting from the bite of an infected tick, suggests, this well-documented book is about a newly targeted infectious disease, and it is as important for the light it sheds on the nature of scientific inquiry within the contemporary social and political context as it is for its information about Lyme disease. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"An extraordinary work that describes both Lyme disease the disease and Lyme disease the phenomenon. The author is a natural teacher." Stephen Malawista, professor of medicine, Yale University, who led the group that discovered Lyme disease.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking the Borrelia burgdorferi Case April 4 2004
Format:Hardcover
In his book "Bull's Eye", Dr. Jonathan Edlow takes the reader through the medical detective work leading to the discovery of the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent responsible for Lyme disease. It also deals with several other tick-borne illnesses such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Q fever, and babesiosis. Unlike most readers, I have a unique perspective on this work as a former suffer of Lyme disease due to a tick bite I got while hiking in the St. Croix River valley of Minnesota in 1998. Fortunately, my physician, a gifted diagnostician, promptly tested for Lyme disease, and after a treatment of antibiotics (and anti-inflammatory drugs for the migratory arthritic pain involved), I became Lyme free after a careful prescription and testing regimen. It is with that background that I read "Bull's Eye", and I heartily endorse it as the best historical treatment of Lyme disease I have yet seen. I also have the benefit of being a biologist by education, so I was already acquainted with most of the terminology involved. This book is excellent for Doctors and other medical professionals, and is totally suitable to the layman as well, although someone with limited background may end up re-reading sections and flipping to the Appendix and Glossary occasionally.
The book is really a medical detective story, and a gripping one at that. It begins with the symptoms of an unknown disease clustered around Lyme, Connecticut in the mid 1970s. Initially believed to be Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA), authorities began questioning that diagnosis after demographic patterns were not consistent with JRA, and the disease exhibited significant clustering (which JRA does not do.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Finding Answers Despite Ourselves Nov. 5 2003
Format:Hardcover
We have AIDS, SARS, West Nile Virus, and other deadly infectious diseases to make headlines. It might seem that a recounting of the search for the cause of Lyme disease and a treatment for it would lack import. Lyme disease is not insignificant; it isn't as deadly as other newsworthy infections, but it has affected hundreds of thousands of Americans, and can cause symptoms from the curious but unthreatening (like a "bull's eye" pattern of a rash) to arthritis, nerve damage, meningitis, and heart disease. _Bull's-Eye: Unraveling the Medical Mystery of Lyme_ Disease (Yale) by Jonathan A. Edlow, M.D., is a valuable addition to the chronicles of detective work that have led to our understanding, and sometimes treating, serious illness. As in most such stories, this is a tale of triumph, but it is muted; there is still a good deal of confusion and ill-will among patients, doctors, and their lawyers regarding the illness.
Lyme disease was first recognized in the US in Connecticut in 1975. It is caused by a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called _Borrelia burgdorferi_, but it is spread by what epidemiologists call a "vector," in this case the deer tick. The flurry of investigation of the disease was sparked by patients who could not get proper answers from their physicians, and were only eventually referred to Yale University, where the departments of rheumatology, epidemiology, and even ecology started investigating. Thus began the effort to get an epidemiological grip on the phenomenon. Gradually the patterns of the illness itself became clearer. There were stages, first a skin rash, then joint pain, but the connection between the two was uncertain.
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Format:Hardcover
This book is an excellent addition to your medical library.
The author discusses outbreaks of arthritis and dermatitis
and distinguishes these from Lyme's disease. The author
describes the genetic sequence of bugs and causality in
Lyme's Disease. He offers an increase in the tick population and
arthropoda as Lyme's disease antagonists. In polling,
a strong minority of Lyme's victims recall having had a tick
bite. Humans tend to be hosts for ticks. The IFA test tells
researchers whether or not the patient produces germ
antibodies for the Lyme's disease. Some ticks have multiple
toxins and this aspect is problematic for uniform diagnosis.
Finally , the diagnostic measurements are imperfect.
This book provides a badly needed perspective on Lyme's
Disease. It is highly recommended for your personal health
library. The work would be helpful in assisting you
to make a diagnosis of the disease process because the
patient symptoms and blood chemistry results are not always
conclusive. This book points toward important distinguishing
factors critical to making a correct diagnosis. In addition,
it names important clinicians in the medicinal art.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Fast-Paced Historical Mystery Aug. 2 2003
Format:Hardcover
Its not often a layperson can be introduced to complex science and come away learning, understanding and appreciating technical issues while enjoying the process. Jonathan Edlow accomplishes all this and more. In addition to allowing the reader to quickly and easily learn and understand the subtleties of Lyme disease and a wide range of related medical topics, the author also introduces us to a broad cast of characters: Lyme disease victims, their families and protagonists; sophisticated academic researchers on several continents; medical sleuths with the single-mindedness of hounds on the hunt; and physician-healers struggling to make sense of the unknown and unknowable as they treat their suffering patients. Edlow makes them all real human beings and allows us to get into their minds and see the mystery of Lyme disease from each different viewpoint. Finally, Edlow assembles all this in a fast-paced mystery story decorated with historical examples and analogies that makes it clear to the reader that discovery and history are unfolding in each exciting chapter.
Bulls Eye is a great read. If Dr. Edlow can repeat this accomplishment in arenas other than medicine, he will be widely recognized as another John McPhee.
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