“Newborn died at 23 hours due to prenatal brain damage”
Jan 25, 2019
A mom can pass the pathogen to her fetus – but the WHO has removed of this disease from its definitive diagnostic reference
By Mary Beth Pfeiffer on January 25, 2019
Scientific American – Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you plummet from a ski gondola. Or, equally bad, you contract a fatal illness from eating human brains.
Your risk of experiencing such disasters is low. But these calamities, and many more, are nonetheless covered by the world list of illnesses and injury known as the International Classification of Diseases, or ICD, published by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The document tells doctors what to look for, insurers what they might pay for, and health officials—by virtue of numbers—what needs attention.
Last June, seven years into a project involving 30 committees and 11,000 proposals, the WHO released the eleventh version of this tally of human malady.
Its 55,000 entries were undergoing final, mostly technical, review when, in December of 2018, something unusual happened: one diagnosis—congenital Lyme disease—slipped from the list.
The condition occurs when a pregnant woman infected with the tick-borne disease passes the bacterium, known as a spirochete, to her developing fetus.
Cases of Lyme spirochetes crossing the placenta have been documented since the 1980s, with sometimes terrible consequences for fetuses and newborns.
Consider a report in the journal PLOS One, published in November, which examined, among other evidence, the outcomes of 59 women with Lyme disease in pregnancy.
“Newborn died at 39 hours,” reads one entry for a baby with a heart deformity. “Spirochetes … found in spleen, renal tubes and bone marrow.”
“Newborn died at 23 hours due to prenatal brain damage,” reads another. “Spirochetes identified in the brain and liver.”
In all, 10 miscarriages and 10 deaths occurred, along with 16 complications and defects, six of them long-lasting. The overall tally: bad outcomes in 61 percent of cases … Read more.