According to the CDC Lyme FAQ:
“There is, however, a great deal of misinformation regarding tickborne coinfections on the internet. The possibility of having three or more tickborne infections or having pathogens such [as] Bartonella or Mycoplasma (which have not been shown to be tickborne), is extremely unlikely.”
But in the chronic Lyme community, patients collect fake infections like baseball cards.
Yolanda Hadid (formerly Yolanda Foster, formerly Yolanda van den Herik) is a reality show star who has been one of the most visible promoters of the fake chronic Lyme diagnosis. Her story has been critically examined in The Daily Beast, Jezebel, and the blog Real Skeptics of TV.
As is typical in the chronic Lyme community, Hadid believes she was afflicted with multiple unsubstantiated infections. She has used a silly form of diagnosis called muscle testing, which has no basis in reality. In a desperate attempt to treat her many diagnoses, Hadid spent a fortune on quackery, seeing over 100 doctors in 11 countries. According to US Weekly, ex-husband David Foster “shelled out nearly $5 million on Yolanda’s treatments.”
In an interview with a credulous Dr. Oz, Hadid said she went through a brutal three month course of intravenous antibiotics.
It was like probably what hell looks like. I mean it was just so intense. Sweating on the bathroom floor just praying to get through that time.
This was three times the recommended duration, even if she had Lyme disease. Of course the IV antibiotics did not help her, as a science-based doctor would have told her. But she continued to pursue unnecessary intravenous therapies.
In the photo below, Hadid laid out 24 Post-it notes of diagnoses she received, which are here transcribed in a table, including what appears to be at least one duplicate:
|HHV6||Bartonella||Babesia||Borrelia garinii||Neuro borreliosis|
|Candida||Hep B||Epstein Barr||Borrelia spielmanii||Borrelia afzelii|
|Chlamydia Pneumonia||Marcons||Entamoeba Hartmanni||Encephalitis||Blastocystis hominis|
|Iodamoeba Butshii||Q-Fever||Cladosporium||Cryptosporidium Parvum||Cladosporium (sp? twice?)|
|Yersinia||Cryptococcus Laurenti||Eubacterium Cylindrodies||Rope Worms|
To her credit, Hadid does admit she made mistakes, but the burning need for a cure led her further down the rabbit hole:
You’re so desperate that you want to believe anybody that comes up with something that is off the mainstream path. But there’s a lot of things that I did afterwards going like… Especially now with my brain function coming back. I go like “Oh my God! Was I crazy?”
Did I really walk into Tijuana covered with a baseball cap and black glasses and stand in line with all the people at the border, you know, to go and get fetal stem cell shots from some guy that wrote a book?
It’s like I’ve done shady things. But I was just like “No”. I’m either going to either gonna get this or I’ll die tomorrow. But I’m going to die trying. I’m not gonna lay there and wait for this to go away because it’s not going away.
According to Hadid’s book Believe Me, she was diagnosed with Lyme disease based on an IgM test, which would have been inappropriate because it is prone to false positives. In addition to “chronic neurological Lyme disease”, at least 4 other infections were diagnosed initially (including Chlamydia trachomatis, which is not listed in the photo.)
It appears the more entrenched Hadid became in “chronic Lyme”, the more infections she believed she had, and the more quackery she consumed. In her book, Hadid does say the Hepatitis B diagnosis was made prior to her discovery of the chronic Lyme community.
Fake Bartonella infections
Particularly common in the chronic Lyme community are fake Bartonella infections. The CDC debunks some common myths about Bartonella, which is a genus of bacteria.
According to the CDC:
- There is currently no convincing evidence that ticks can transmit Bartonella infection to humans.
- Unfortunately there is a great deal of misinformation regarding multiple tickborne infections (called coinfections) on the internet. The possibility of having several tickborne infections at once or having pathogens such as Bartonella that have not been shown to be tickborne, is extremely unlikely.
Several Bartonella species are known to infect humans. Bartonella henselae causes cat-scratch disease because the bacteria is transmitted to humans from a scratch of a cat. The human body louse (lice) transmits Bartonella quintana to humans, causing Trench fever. Most cases of cat-scratch disease go away on their own, though a short (e.g. 4 day) course of antibiotics may be recommended. For Trench fever and serious complications of Bartonella, the CDC recommends consulting with an infectious disease expert and treating with antibiotics. The National Organization for Rare Disorders states that Trench fever “is commonly found in homeless, alcoholic, and poverty-stricken populations where poor sanitation and poor hygiene often occurs.”
Given the known characteristics of Bartonella, the claims of chronic tick-borne Bartonella infections are simply not supported by science.
Doctors are very concerned about patients who have been diagnosed with a false Bartonella infections because the patients may receive unnecessary treatments and delay treatments for a real conditions. One exasperated doctor stated, “now one of my patients is arguing and menacing because I do not confirm his infection by Bartonella spp.”
Despite claims by chronic Lyme activists of numerous chronic tick-borne coinfections, a 2014 scientific review concluded:
The medical literature does not support the diagnosis of chronic, atypical tick-borne coinfections in patients with chronic, nonspecific illnesses.
Other questionable diagnoses
- Mold illness
- Heavy metals
- Biotoxin Illness and unsubstantiated “toxins”
- Chronic Babesia
- Tick-borne mycoplasma
- Wifi allergy or fear of “smart meters” (electromagnetic hypersensitivity)
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
- Leaky gut
- Candida overgrowth
- Adrenal fatigue
- Most, and possibly all, cases of PANS/PANDAS
- Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome
- Most “vaccine injuries”
- Chiropractic subluxations
- Concerns about the MTHFR mutation
- viruses (e.g. HHV6, Epstein-Barr, CMV) that are said to need unnecessary treatment
- Unsubstantiated sensitivities requiring special dietary restrictions (e.g. removing gluten, dairy, tomatoes)
- Lantos PM, Wormser GP. Chronic coinfections in patients diagnosed with chronic lyme disease: a systematic review. Am J Med. 2014;127(11):1105-10. [Discusses dubious diagnoses of Bartonella, Anaplasmosis, and Babesia]
- CDC: Lyme FAQ
- Science-Based Medicine: Fake diseases, false compassion
- Wikipedia: List of questionable diseases
- Video of an apparent quackery victim who says she acquired 7 infections from one tick
- American Lyme Disease Foundation
- Quackwatch: Be Wary of “Fad” Diagnoses
- Quackwatch: Index to “Fad” Diagnoses
- A doctor and CDC scientists complain about misinformation on Bartonella
- Telford SR, Wormser GP. Bartonella spp. transmission by ticks not established. Emerging Infect Dis. 2010;16(3):379-84.
- CDC: Bartonella testing FAQs
- CDC: Bartonella diagnosis and treatment: Information for clinicians
- National Organization of Rare Disorders: Bartonellosis
- CDC: Babesia
- Pearson ML, Selby JV, Katz KA, et al. Clinical, epidemiologic, histopathologic and molecular features of an unexplained dermopathy. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(1):e29908.
- Newsweek: Morgellons skin disease isn’t real, doctors say, but its sufferers haven’t gone away
- Morgellons Watch
- Fair B. Morgellons: contested illness, diagnostic compromise and medicalisation. Sociol Health Illn. 2010;32(4):597-612.
- The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Position Statement: The medical effects of mold exposure
- American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine Position Statement: Adverse Human Health Effects Associated with Molds in the Indoor Environment
- Edmondson DA, et al. Allergy and “toxic mold syndrome”. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2005;94(2):234-9.
- Khalili B, et al. Inhalational mold toxicity: fact or fiction? A clinical review of 50 cases. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2005;95(3):239-46.
- CDC: Notes from the Field: Use of Unvalidated Urine Mycotoxin Tests for the Clinical Diagnosis of Illness — United States, 2014
- The Daily Beast: Why Is the Internet So Obsessed with ‘Toxic Mold’?
- Quackwatch: Mold Neurotoxicity: Validity, Reliability and Baloney
- Quackwatch: Some Notes on the Overdiagnosis of “Toxic Mold” Disease
- Harvard Health blog: Is adrenal fatigue “real”?
- Science-Based Medicine: Adrenal fatigue: A fake disease (updated)
- Cadegiani FA, Kater CE. Adrenal fatigue does not exist: a systematic review. BMC Endocr Disord. 2016;16(1):48.
- Hormone Health Network: Adrenal Fatigue
- Hormones Demystified: Adrenal Fatigue – A Fraud Perpetrated On Unsuspecting Patients
- Dr. Steven Novella: Fake diagnosis fatigue
- Cleveland Clinic: A Genetic Test You Don’t Need– Testing MTHFR is usually unnecessary
- Science-Based Medicine: Dubious MTHFR genetic mutation testing
- Former naturopath Britt Hermes: How Your Genetic Sequence Can Be Exploited By The Supplement Industry
- Skeptical Raptor: Debunking the myth that MTHFR gene mutations are the root of all health problems
Other questionable diagnoses:
- Quackwatch: Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: A Spurious Diagnosis
- Science-Based Medicine: Candida and Fake Illnesses
- Forbes: Heavy Metals Inc