Diane Blanchard ’85




November 26, 2012

Diane Blanchard ’85


by Jordan Chapman

“Eventually we hope doctors will be able to take a drop of blood and tell what kinds of organisms are present in the body.” — Diane Blanchard ’85

In the Lyme Light

From 1990–2010 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 396,754 confirmed or probable cases of Lyme disease in the United States. However, of that number only 10 percent of all cases that meet the definition of Lyme disease were reported. That’s a lot of Lyme.

Diane Blanchard ’85, who received an M.B.A. in Marketing from Adelphi is on the case. Her story with the disease, however, started 24 years ago on the beaches of Long Island.

A co-founder of today’s nonprofit Lyme Research Alliance, formed in 1998, Ms. Blanchard first came in contact with the disease after discovering a tick on her neck after an outing at the beach in 1988, and soon after developed what she describes as a horrific summer flu.

Horrific isn’t the word. She suffered for about 10 years—of sickness at the worst, to not quite healthy at the best—from a misdiagnosis of what she had contracted, Lyme disease.

It was after her own children became ill with a tick-borne infection that she partnered up with her co-founders to form their current nonprofit organization to first spread awareness and education to their local health departments, school boards, hospitals and citizens.

“It was incredibly eye-opening to realize that the disease was so misunderstood and misdiagnosed,” Ms. Blanchard said. “Ticks are cesspools for infections; you can imagine the variety of things they could potentially carry.”

Because of the multiple forms of bacteria along with potential co-infections that can be found within each tick bite, many Lyme disease cases go unreported, are misdiagnosed or don’t exactly match the criteria of the disease.

“The current tests used only indicate the presence of the antibodies, not the organisms that potentially cause the disease,” Ms. Blanchard said, meaning if a body is harboring the disease but doesn’t produce the antibodies to combat the disease then doctors can’t detect it.

This is the problem Ms. Blanchard and her cohorts aim to fix. As a result, what once was an organization dedicated to education (Greenwich Lyme Disease Task Force), then fundraising (Time for Lyme, Inc.) is now dedicated fulltime to the research of the disease (Lyme Research Alliance). They have partnered up with the Lyme Disease Association, Inc. to open a center for the study of chronic Lyme at the Columbia University Medical Center as well as fund researchers at other major medical institutions throughout the country in search of answers. 

They’ve come across something big. “We’re hyper focused on a gold standard direct detection test,” Ms. Blanchard said. “Eventually we hope doctors will be able to take a drop of blood and tell what kinds of organisms are present in the body.” Essentially, it would solve the mystery of what is ailing their patient at the “get-go.” 

Potentially, this technology wouldn’t just help Lyme disease. They hope they could also detect other conditions and illnesses affecting the body by discovering what organisms the body is harboring.

“I’m very hopeful,” Ms. Blanchard said. “I continue to work hard because I’m very excited about our progress. We have made great inroads with the scientific and legislative community, all the while providing this great service for our base of followers.”

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