Co-founder of the popular Phones 4u chain, John Caudwell, calls on the UK government to deepen Lyme disease research efforts. According to him, the said bacterial infection is claiming thousands of lives as it remains widely underdiagnosed all across the country.
In Caudwell's guesting on BBC Radio 5 Live on Tuesday, Sept. 29, the billionaire cannot help but choke back in tears as he reveals the massive effects that Lyme disease has caused his family.
He and four of his family members have been diagnosed with the disease within the past two months; these include his ex-wife Kathryn McFarlane and his daughters Rebekah, 35, and Rhiannon, 27.
But what seem to had struck Caudwell the most is the present condition of his 20-year old son, Rufus, who contracted the disease 10 years ago. Rufus was said to have been suffering from mental illnesses due to the bacteria. Now, his condition has gone so severe that clinical manifestations of psychosis have started to develop in the last three days.
What is extremely mortifying is the that Rufus was only diagnosed in February 2015. According to Caudwell, the knowledge of his son's "lost years" after battling against mental illness for so many years has left him devastated.
In his interview with 5 Live, he had expressed his desire to start a charity to enhance funding and research for Lyme disease.
As five members of his family, including himself, had contracted the same disease, Caudwell has started to suspect that the infection may be caused by other factors aside from tick bite, which is the widely acknowledged cause of the disease. He also thinks that Lyme disease may also be associated with other chronic neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).
According to Caudwell, if research can find a relationship between these conditions and Lyme disease, then the potentially most important breakthrough in the healthcare industry, since antibiotics were discovered, may surface .
"If I am right, I am on the path to helping tens of thousands of people," said Caudwell. He added that he can also help NHS save millions in terms of preventing longer hospital stays and necessitating consultant appointments for illnesses caused by Lyme disease.
However, Public Health England has told The Independent that there are no scientific proofs linking Lyme disease with chronic conditions and supporting claims that it is caused by factors other than tick bites. "Public Health England is beginning research into Lyme disease to investigate better diagnostic tests," said a spokesperson from the said government body.
As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, which is a bacterium that can be spread to humans through a bite of an infected blacklegged tick. Infected patients may exhibit skin rashes, fever, fatigue and headache. Medical professionals diagnose the disease through physical examination and exposure review. If accurately performed using validated procedures, some laboratory tests may also help detect the disease. Weeks of antibiotic therapy is the available treatment for patients. Preventive measures include applying insect repellents, spraying pesticides and ridding ticks immediately. If left untreated, Lyme disease may result in joint, heart and nervous system infections.