The understanding that certain infections produce mental health presentations is not a new one. However, based in part on observations of some of the features of tick borne diseases (TBD) such as Lyme like illness, a reawakening of the role for infection in psychiatry is underway.

‘Microbial madness’ is not limited to TBD. There is a large body of evidence linking a long list of pathogens to possible mental ill health. Our role then is to be able to quickly recognise the clinical course and the blood markers that flag this as a possible driver then support the body in its attempts to resolve, not just the infection, but the unchecked inflammation secondary to this.

 Ever had a patient where all the arrows point to a microbial burden but you can’t find or name the little blighter!? I have.

What then? Do we need to always eradicate? This typically necessitates at least knowing enough about the infecting organisms to effectively target them. Or do we just go in Rambo style and shoot everything that moves? We need to be mindful that sometimes it is the aberrant or dysregulated response from the immune system to the microbe that is in fact the perpetuator of the clinical presentation rather than the pathogen itself. In some cases even, the pathogen is long gone. So in effect, with a primary anti-microbial approach we could be chasing a ghost.

I’m on a learning curve in this area myself. I’ve been stuck trying to distinguish between whether I continue to fortify the ‘attack’ or ‘settle the patient’s whole immune system down’. There are no easy answers it seems but I am pleased to have access to practitioners who have been working this frontline for years before me, like Robert (Bob) Bransfield, in order to ask all these difficult questions and benefit from their vast knowledge base.

Bob is fearless in his pursuit of knowledge and dissemination of information regarding ‘Microbial madness’. From the TBD context right through to his current work on microbial links to aggression, criminality and violence, what Bob has to say is compelling. I am fortunate enough to be interviewing Bob in detail on this topic for this week’s Access the Experts webinar, “Infectious drivers of psychiatric illness – the latest on best practice assessment & management”. For obvious reasons, this webinar tomorrow night 7pm is not to be missed. 

“Access the Experts with Rachel Arthur” is a webinar series focusing on the best of Mental Health Education.  Rachel interviews four hand-picked guest speakers about a particular area of expertise in Mental Health. Each live webinar is recorded so you even if you can’t attend on the day, you won’t miss out on a thing!
Book in for the individual webinar here OR purchase the full series here.