Lynora Saxinger

Associate Professor, Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases

20 September 2018

Infectious Diseases expert Lynora Saxinger is putting the lie to Lyme disease "alternative facts," addressing vaccination misinformation and reducing unnecessary antibiotic use.

Much of Saxinger's work focuses on separating fact from fiction when it comes to infectious diseases such as Lyme disease and influenza. While it is indeed a serious illness, she said, Lyme disease is very rare in Alberta, and easily treated with a readily available oral antibiotic when it does occur. Furthermore, the public pressure from certain movements-including a growing list of for-profit laboratories in the United States and elsewhere that claim to specialize in detecting the tick-borne illness-can lead to misdiagnosis, she said, and improper treatment.

"The standard test we use (in Canada) was developed by the scientists who discovered the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease in the first place," she emphasized, so patients can trust that it's accurate and reliable. On the other hand, some of these non validated tests have been shown to be positive in as many as 40% of people who are perfectly healthy with no suspicion of Lyme disease.

"The misinformation that is sometimes perpetuated by media and various organizations creates a lot of unnecessary fear, and may in fact cause harm because people with other illnesses can be misdiagnosed with Lyme disease and given unnecessary therapy," said Saxinger in acommentary written for U of A publication Folio last fall.

Saxinger's work also focuses on spreading the word about the importance of vaccinations in general, including the fact thatan annual flu shot is the best line of defence from the virus.