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Trials and tribulations of getting Borrelia biofilms acccepted for publication


Pathologist Alan MacDonald describes the struggle to publish the discovery of Borrelia biofilms and what the existence of these biofilms means for chronicity and treatment.

In the original release of UNDER OUR SKIN my parting remarks are about the exciting future of biofilms of Borrelia – the Next Big Thing. At the time of filming, we already had the proof in hand, but we had to get our paper published. We had to get it past an editor in chief of a journal with good academic standing in the world of medical publishing. We knew that we would not succeed with the Journal of Infectious Diseases or Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease or with the newsletter to the membership of the IDSA. The most important milestone happened in November 2012 with the long-awaited publication of the PLOS ONE article on In Vitro Biofilms of Borrelia Burgdorferi.

It took six years of tedious and gut-wrenching work to get the article into a prestigious journal, PLOS ONE.  The acceptance for the article to be published was, like some births, not an easy delivery. The original manuscript reviews required mandatory revisions – non-negotiable revisions. The most onerous of these was the directive by the editorial staff  to remove any and all language from the manuscript which  connected the significance of biofilms of Borrelia  to human medicine, human disease, and to Lyme disease specifically. They also required us to remove any and all language relating to attitudes toward the proper treatment of Lyme disease and related Borrelia infections. We acceded to these demands.

Why would PhD reviewers be at all interested in MD-type concerns? Here the existing politics provide an answer. None of the three reviewers was an IDSA-aligned person. All of the reviewers, as far as we could determine, were European microbiologists with special life experience in biofilm biology of other non-Borrelia microbes. The sticky wicket about biofilms is that biofilms of the infectious type are always a marker of Chronic Infection. Chronic Lyme borreliosis was then and in 2013 still is a much disputed entity.

By Alan MacDonald, MD

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HARD SCIENCE ON LYME: Trials and tribulations of getting Borrelia …

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