i’m in a presentation, by dr. amiram katz, neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at yale university, called “IVIg treatment for autoimmune issues in lyme disease: II. neurodegenerative and other neuro inflammatory conditions.” my attention span is powering down, largely because the cost of IVIg (intravenous immunoglobulin) treatment is so astronomical that many insurance companies will not cover its use. in the lyme world, it is typically administered under the care of a neurologist or neurosurgeon. this posting does not cover the myriad of potential uses for IVIg therapy. if you’re interested in reading more about how it’s being used through different medical channels, click here. what i’m writing here is pretty limited to what i’ve heard at this conference and have a very small knowledge base of IVIg therapies beyond that. this is the second or third lecture i’ve been to where IVIg is the heart of the research, but i’ve heard it mentioned in many of the presentations. tidbits from those other lectures will no doubt be included. please feel free to comment on it if you feel you have information relevant to neuro-lyme or neuro-inflammatory conditions.

so what is intravenous immunoglobulin? according to BDI Pharma, a pharmaceutical distributor who provides this blood byproduct, IVIg is:

a sterile solution of concentrated antibodies extracted from healthy donors which is administered into a vein. IVIG is used to treat disorders of the immune system or to boost immune response to serious illness, and to treat immuno-suppressed recipients of bone marrow transplants. Antibodies are responsible for defending our bodies from pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria.

according to dr. katz, it takes 50,000 donors to create a viable product. this is done through a very extensive process of refining and cleaning, washing the blood. he states that about 10% of 5,000 patients required IVIg therapies. it has been preliminarily successful in treating complications of lyme, but not lyme disease itself. it should not be used as a treatment for lyme and as such, lyme protocols should still be followed. in cases where the patient has severe neurological symptoms and has undergone typical treatment avenues with marginal or minimal success, this patient could be a good candidate for IVIg. interestingly, dr. katz believes that chronic lyme disease is actually an autoimmune disease, which is something that my lyme literate rheumatologist has also stated. the majority of long term damage is caused by autoimmunity and inflammation, a theme throughout this conference and the lyme world.

how exactly IVIg works in the body is still unclear, though it does seem to temporarily create necessary antibodies in patients who are unable to produce them on their own (immunodeficient). IVIg can also be beneficial for patients with autoimmune diseases, conditions where the body has an excess of antibodies and subsequently, they turn on the body and attack the patient. IVIg seems to regulate the immune system in most cases.

IVIg can be used to treat an incredible array for diseases and has been particularly effective in cases with patients who have MS. over a ten-year period, dr. katz used IVIg therapy for patients with ALS. only two of twenty patients who received this therapy and improved. there was still a fatal outcome, but their life-span was extended by a couple of years. dr. madeline cunningham, in another presentation at the ilads conference, relayed that in pediatric cases of PANDAS (pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders), after one month, patients greatly improved with IVIg treatment. OCD and tics were greatly lessened, if even present, after 3-6 months of treatment.

in the case of late manifestations of lyme disease, autonomic neuropathy is common. according to the mayo clinic, autonomic neuropathy can be described as “a nerve disorder that affects involuntary body functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, perspiration and digestion.” until now, autonomic dysfunction was measured by unreliable, costly and tedious testing. dr. katz, by counting sweat gland nerve fiber density, has been able to more easily diagnose autonomic neuropathy. his research is demonstrating the ability of IVIg therapy to repair autonomic neuropathy, which “and this repair might sometimes antedate recovery of small fiber neuropathy.”

due to the cost prohibitive nature of IVIg therapies and the fact that, for many diseases and conditions, it’s still in the experimental stages, most patients will not be good candidates for this type of treatment. however, those who have exhausted traditional, as well as more aggressive therapies, and are still suffering from severe symptoms, might consider consulting with a neurologist who is familiar with IVIg. who knows? maybe your insurance will cover it!