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Dr. Omar Morales was featured in the ILADS Pulse Newsletter

Check out his interview and learn about his valuable insights and contributions to the field of Lyme and associated diseases.

 

1. Can you share a bit about your background and medical journey? What inspired you to become a doctor?

Becoming a doctor was as surprising to me as it was to many others, given that I had no plans to attend university, let alone pursue one of the most challenging professions. Without my dad’s intervention, I might still be working with my hands, earning hard-earned pesos in construction. In my youth, carefree and living day by day, my aspirations were modest. However, my dad had different plans; he cunningly persuaded me to take the medical test at Guadalajara’s esteemed public university. His influence guided me through medical school, where he transitioned from being a trickster to a perpetual teacher, offering classes in cellular biology, biochemistry, and his favorite, hematology.

My dad’s impact went beyond personal development; he introduced me to my first Lyme patient a decade ago, marking a pivotal moment in my medical career. It all started with a patient who had contacted my dad’s blood bank for a significant presence of pathogens in their blood, visible under microscope. Anaplasma, bartonella, and babesia were starkly evident, yet 30 different physicians in his hometown couldn’t pinpoint the issue. Frustrated and determined, they ventured across borders into our small medical office even though we didn’t fully comprehend the situation at the time. 

The patient reached our Puerto Vallarta, Mexico facility, accompanied by his hometown doctor, a compassionate and highly knowledgeable professional in the field who was an ILADS member and who would later become one of my mentors and friends. This doctor graciously shared his expertise in tick-borne diseases, a subject I was still unfamiliar with. Through our collaborative efforts, we devised a treatment plan that involved plasmapheresis, red cell exchange, antibiotics, and anti-parasitics. Miraculously, the patient, initially on the brink of organ failure, regained his health and returned to a normal life. That same patient, and his family have maintained contact since, initiating a lasting connection between our families.  

Life has its twists and turns, and I’ve had my personal share of tick-borne incidents which had it not been because of that first case of Lyme disease I might not had been able to resolve on my own. Nowadays, this and other experiences motivate me, not only as a doctor but as someone who has navigated challenging health situations. I am dedicated to providing the best possible care to every patient because I understand the significance of relentless dedication in the face of adversity. I can’t imagine giving up on someone when I know that, had I been the patient, I’d want a doctor who fought for me.

 

2. Could you highlight a particularly challenging case or medical issue you’ve encountered in your practice and how you approached it?

One time, I received a call from a desperate mother of two sick children, Juan Pablo and Ana, who had been unwell for years since a tick bite occurred during their visit to Disneyland. Juan Pablo, the youngest of the pair, had been affected by a strain of Lyme that left his nervous system paralyzed. He lost movement in his legs and the left side of his upper body, and he was unable to swallow food or talk. He required assistance through an orotracheal access. Juan Pablo had been seeing a renowned doctor for years and had undergone oral and intramuscular antibiotics without much effect.

Back in 2015, all I could offer was plasmapheresis, red blood cell exchange for his blood parasites, ozone, and intravenous antibiotics. Feeling that this might not be enough, I researched other potential treatments such as stem cells, magnet therapy, acupuncture stimulation, and even stumbled upon a paper discussing possible benefits from dolphin stimulation therapy. This therapy had helped people after a stroke and traumatic brain injury by exposing them to the healing powers of tiny ultrasonic high-frequency waves produced by the sea animal’s larynx and nasal passages. Committed to leaving no stone unturned, we decided to pursue this treatment along with various other alternative approaches, hoping to see some change in Juan Pablo’s life.

I vividly remember the water park closing its dolphin area for us. Present were my patient, his parents, the dolphin trainers, a close friend of mine, a nurse, the dolphin, and myself. The intelligent sea mammal approached Juan Pablo at the edge of the pool, placing its soft, pointy nose gently into Juan Pablo’s head and creating different high-pitched sounds as it rubbed back and forth on his little head. I cannot definitively state the results, as I never repeated this treatment with another patient. However, one thing was certain – on that day, I witnessed a desperate family and their doctor placing all hopes on the most atypical of treatments. I remember the satisfaction and happiness we all felt for trying everything we possibly could, trusting in God for a miracle to happen.

We discharged that patient, only to receive a call three months later. An unfamiliar voice was on the other end, saying, “Hi, it’s me, Juan Pablo,” with a thin, childlike voice. I almost didn’t recognize who it was at first; I had never heard his voice before. He, who had not spoken for two years, was now talking in full sentences like a little parrot. He even sang a song over the phone. Both him and his sister were already doing better, recovering since they had left our facility. I will never forget how satisfying and miraculous that felt – to have been present for the unfolding miracle and to receive encouragement for the unconventional approach I took in treating Lyme disease. It strengthened my resolve to continue in that direction, no matter how unconventional it seemed to my colleagues who thought I was crazy for treating Lyme disease with something more than 28 days of oral doxycycline. This experience taught me, more than anything, to always be hopeful, plan for the worst, and, above all, never give up and trust in God’s plan. I later learned that Juan Pablo regained his motor skills and eventually became a teenager, walking again and attending school like a normal kid.

 

3. Can you tell us about any ongoing research, projects, or initiatives you are involved in that might benefit fellow doctors or the medical community at large?

After witnessing numerous neurological complications and sequelae arising from tick-borne illnesses associated with Lyme, co-infections, and even PANS, I decided to undertake a systematic review of published cases. The goal was to comprehend the incidence and patterns of complications, as well as identify the most effective techniques. I am set to present these findings at the upcoming ILADS European Scientific Conference in Starnberg, Germany, on April 20, 2024. I have been invited to showcase the outcomes of this study with the hope of reaching our European colleagues dealing with similar cases overseas.

Historically, patients with Tick-borne Diseases (TBD) and Lyme disease may exhibit neurodegenerative complications. Few studies, however, have demonstrated factors linking the two. Moreover, traditionally, Lyme disease patients presenting neurodegenerative complications are either treated with antibiotics as a common infection or managed as a chronic neurodegenerative condition with palliative therapies. The purpose of my systematic review is to summarize research on Tick-borne Diseases and the associated neurological link, providing healthcare practitioners with information for new treatment options. I aimed to conduct a systematic review of all reported cases of Lyme disease complicated by neurodegeneration from 1987 to 2019. Additional research in this particular area is needed.

While working on this subject, I came across research papers describing the neuroregenerative effects on mice subjected to a special low-frequency device. This device manipulated permeability into the blood-brain barrier for 30 minutes, allowing scientists to insert marked neuro-regenerative cells into the right side of the hippocampus. This procedure caused noticeable signs of neurological rejuvenation. Subsequent studies demonstrated changes in the behavior of these mice, previously labeled with the human equivalent of dementia. After the procedure, they slowly started regaining neurocognitive functions, along with improved coordination and mental stamina. Extrapolating this to humans suggests that over a quarter of dementia patients could experience significant improvements in their quality of life.

This area has long interested me, especially as I have close family members suffering from early dementia. I hope to assist them in the future with this or similar treatment approaches. Currently, I am in talks with one of the leading scientists in the field on how to prepare for human trials on this subject. Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, we will have updates on this project, and I have faith that it will yield positive results or lead us in a direction where we can offer more options for patients suffering from neurodegeneration, dementia, neurocognitive issues, and neuropsychiatric illness. This could potentially change the lives of a quarter of the population living under these circumstances.

 

For information about the top clinic, Lyme Mexico, and alternative treatment options, contact us today!

Dr. Omar Morales, MD - Lyme Mexico

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