New Treatment Resource for Lyme Disease Patients


Jeff Ballinger

Columbia has launched a research-integrated treatment center devoted to treating Lyme and other tick-borne diseases and a clinical trials network that will explore new treatments, with the help of a $16 million gift from the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation.

The Cohen Center for Health and Recovery from Tick-Borne Diseases represents the first center in New York City to offer affordable, dedicated treatment for children and adults with Lyme and related diseases. 

“Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses are conditions that have both acute and late stage presentations. While most clinicians can recognize and treat the well-known rash, many are less confident about how to help individuals with late neurologic or relapsing persistent symptoms,” says Brian Fallon, MD, the founding director of the Cohen Center for Health and Recovery from Tick-Borne Diseases. 

National annual estimates of Lyme disease are steadily rising, and a recent study of insurance data suggests 476,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with and treated each year for Lyme. Though antibiotics help many patients, approximately 10% to 20% of infections will lead to distressing and potentially disabling symptoms, such as severe fatigue, joint and muscle pain, and cognitive problems that may last for months or years.

“Like COVID-19 ‘long-haulers,’ many people with tick-borne diseases were completely well until their infection precipitated a cascade of chronic, multi-system effects,” says Dr. Fallon.

Shannon Delaney, MD, medical director of the Cohen Center, says, “Many patients with chronic symptoms related to tick-borne illness are misdiagnosed with conditions such as depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, or even psychosomatic disorders as physicians may not be aware of the chronic pain, fatigue, and cognitive problems that can accompany tick-borne illnesses.” 

Dr. Fallon says the Columbia center addresses these issues by offering affordable comprehensive assessment and care provided by experienced physicians. The center integrates research and the training of a new generation of clinicians through fellowship programs. Since August 2021, family, integrative, and behavioral medicine specialists have seen patients via telemedicine. In-person treatment for patients with acute or chronic symptoms will begin in the spring of 2022 in the center’s clinical space located in the Neurological Institute. 

Columbia also is the coordinating center for the new clinical trials network—the first in the nation for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. The network, which includes experts from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., will focus on conducting rigorous research to identify more effective treatments for patients with Lyme and tick-borne diseases. The center welcomes suggestions from academics, community physicians, and the general public.

Cohen Center patients will be invited to enroll in clinical trials of new treatment approaches and in biomarker studies to improve the targeting of treatment to disease process. 

“There’s been little research into the most effective treatments for those with persistent symptoms,” says Dr. Fallon, “and the clinical trials network will be a powerful engine to drive high-quality studies in tick-borne disease.”


More information: