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Friday, January 15th, 2021

U.S. House approves Lyme disease amendment, increases research funding by $4M

Credit: Rep. Chris Smith

The U.S. House of Representatives recently approved an amendment increasing Lyme disease research funding to a total of $20 million at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for fiscal year 2021.

The amendment, authored by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), boosts Lyme disease research funding by $4 million.

“Just three years ago CDC’s Lyme budget was only $11.7 million,” Smith said on Aug. 7. “The increase in funding achieved through my amendment will help CDC develop better diagnostic tests for Lyme, expand tick surveillance activities across the U.S. and strengthen the federal government’s overall strategy to combat Lyme.”

Smith said increased funding is good news for the estimated 800,000 people in New Jersey who have contracted Lyme disease over the past 20 years.

In its 2018 report to Congress, the Department of Health and Human Services found that approximately 300,000 new cases of tick-borne diseases are reported each year. According to the Lyme Disease Association, Inc., in 2018, New Jersey saw the second-highest number of reported Lyme disease cases at 4,000 cases (11.9 percent), behind Pennsylvania’s 10,208 cases (30.3 percent).

“The rising case numbers and increasing spread of tick-borne diseases are alarming and require a sustained focus from Congress to try to control this epidemic,” said Pat Smith, president of the Lyme Disease Association. “We are grateful to Congressman Smith for his continued dedication to this effort and his success along with his colleagues to acquire an additional $4M in funding for Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. In these difficult times for our country, that is an outstanding accomplishment.”

Smith currently serves as co-chair of the bipartisan Lyme Disease Caucus in Congress with U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN). Peterson is the lead cosponsor of Smith’s amendment, which also has been cosponsored by U.S. Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Antonio Delgado (D-NY), Max Rose (D-NY), and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).

Earlier in July, the House also approved another Smith Lyme disease amendment, which mandates a U.S. Government Accountability Office investigation into the possible use of ticks in a Department of Defense bioweapons program. The investigation, Smith said, could potentially shed light on the significant increase in modern-day Lyme disease in recent years and its heavier concentration in certain U.S. regions.

Both amendments follow Smith’s 2019 introduction of the House version of the Ticks: Identify, Control, Knockout (TICK) Act, a national strategy to combat Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. The measure authorizes $150 million in federal funding for Centers of Excellence and critical Lyme initiatives at the local level. The legislation, which was renamed for former U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) who died from a tick-borne disease in October 2019, was signed into law by President Donald Trump as part of a spending package in December 2019.

“The new law will open doors to innovative therapies, treatments, better diagnosis and more accurate information for doctors, and their patients with Lyme,” Smith said of the passage last year.