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Upstate will launch a Multidisciplinary Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Treatment Center

Upstate Medical University will launch a Multidisciplinary Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Treatment Center, thanks to a federal grant secured by Upstate’s federal delegation, U.S. Sens. Schumer, Gillibrand and Rep Katko.

The $898,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration will be used by Upstate for the design, construction, and equipment costs associated with establishing the center. The center will centralize and supplement Upstate’s existing resources for combatting tick-borne disease, including the Vector Biocontainment Laboratory, which is devoted to studying both vector-borne and zoonotic pathogens. This preexisting expertise will allow Upstate to devote federal funds that are received for the project toward necessary capital investments.

Kristopher Paolino, MD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology, who specializes in Lyme disease care, said more and more ticks in New York are found to be carrying Lyme and other diseases. This center will advance Upstate’s treatment and research for tick-borne diseases.

“We have an increased numbers of patients who require treatment for tick-borne diseases and we need better education, not only for patients, but for providers on how to identify some of these diseases we are seeing,” Paolino said. “Having a Lyme disease and tick-borne disease clinical center would be a way to provide patients and providers the tools they need to protect themselves and also encourage patients to seek appropriate treatment in a timely manner. The longer someone goes with untreated Lyme disease the more likely they are going to have chronic symptoms.”

Paolino said the key to the new center will be its multidisciplinary approach.

Proposed represented specialties will reflect the symptoms and ailments that patients battle and include infectious diseases, rheumatology, neurology, physical and occupational therapy, pain management, psychiatry, and integrative medicine. Additional specialties will be engaged as required. Using this approach, diagnostic and treatment plans will be highly coordinated, will improve care efficiency, and move patients toward faster recovery.

Upstate will transform existing office space into the clinical care suite and it is proposed to include a state-of-the-art telemedicine capabilities, including the most advanced technology for virtual teaching and training. Finally, plans include the existing Ted talk space at the CNY Biotech Accelerator to be leveraged to help share knowledge with clinicians at institutions across the nation and world.

Upstate President Mantosh Dewan, MD, echoed Paolino’s concern about the alarming rise of Lyme and other deadly and debilitating tick-borne diseases (TBD) across the U.S., with some of the most rapid spread being seen in Central New York. The tick surveillance program at Upstate has tested more than 27,000 ticks since it began in 2019, and about a third of those ticks have been found to carry one or more pathogens or disease-causing organisms.

“Because of the resolve and leadership of Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand and Congressman Katko, we now will be able to bring together our world-renowned experts in tick-borne disease research, surveillance, testing, treatment and tele-education,” Dewan said. “Patients from across New York and beyond will enjoy faster diagnoses, highly coordinated treatment plans in partnership with their local primary care physician, and faster recoveries.”


Caption: Infectious disease expert Dr Kristoper Paolino, left, says the treatment center will strengthen the care for patients with Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Paolino participated in a press conference with U.S. Rep john Katko in July 2021. Katko was instrumental in bringing funding for the treatment center to Upstate.