We are excited to announce that we are holding our next conference, Autoimmune Encephalopathy Secondary to Infectious Disease: A New Perspective on the Pathogenetic Interaction of the Immune system, Infection, Stress and Chronic Disease, on Feb 9th – 11th, 2022.

There are over 20 million Americans suffering from a group of chronic disabling disorders analogous to the confused interplay of language described in the biblical Tower of Babel, who are diagnosed without a clear elucidation of pathophysiologic mechanisms. Fibromyalgia, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), Neuropsychiatric illnesses, Post-Lyme Syndrome and most recently the post COVID-19 long haul syndrome are but a few of these conditions. Research has demonstrated that common to many of these conditions is dysregulation of the immune system resulting from an infectious insult. Multiple questions present themselves in patients suffering with these disorders such: Why does not everyone who suffers an infectious insult develop immune dysregulation? Given the high prevalence of infections in childhood, why do only a subset of children develop PANS/PANDAS? Genetics is certainly one factor, but we are now learning that epigenetics may be another piece of the puzzle.

The goals of this conference are three-fold:

  1. First, we will explore the role of genetic and epigenetic factors that predispose an individual for immune dysregulation.
  2. Secondly, we will analyze the current evidence for infection-mediated immune dysregulation as it relates to Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, neuropsychiatric illnesses, Post-Lyme syndrome, PANS/PANDAS and the post COVID-19 long haul syndrome.
  3. Thirdly, we will examine current and new diagnostic testing procedures and treatment options for these conditions.

This program is being jointly sponsored by the International Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Immunology (ICISI) at Georgetown University Medical Center and The Foundation for Total Recovery. It will be held virtually and open to both professionals and to the public.

Background:

In the United States, over 70 million Americans suffer with debilitating diseases for which the diagnosis and treatment are highly controversial and/or largely ineffective (CDC Report, 2016).  These diseases are generally classified under the broad term of “Chronic Pain.”  Increasing evidence suggests that the disease process in a number of controversial conditions like PANDAS/PANS, POTS, Post Lyme Syndrome, ME/CFS, as well as in more accepted chronic pain diagnoses such as Fibromyalgia, CRPS, and psychiatric conditions are all driven by immunologic mechanisms. Indeed, it is common for many of these diseases to be comorbid, further suggesting a common pathophysiologic process. There is early evidence of involvement of both the innate as well as the acquired immune systems in all of these conditions.  There is also increasing correlative, if not causative, evidence of infectious agents as the initiators of immunologic processes that play a role in these diseases. Two of the proposed mechanisms by which infectious agents may cause autoimmunity include epigenetic mechanisms in the case of EBV and molecular mimicry in conditions such as Strep bacteria and Lyme Disease.

For clinicians, the challenge is trying to find solutions for patients suffering with an array of symptoms for which the diagnosis and treatments are generally controversial and/or ineffective, and treatments that might prove useful, are denied to many patients because of economic constraints.

Too often, clinicians and researchers are siloed in their approach to these diseases. Clinicians, especially in academia, may only see patients who have been so pre-selected with conditions such as ME/CFS, that they do not see patients with comorbidities such as Fibromyalgia or Depression. Consequently, the correlations among these disease conditions may be missed. While pediatricians are beginning to accept the diagnosis of PANDAS, other infections such as EBV and Lyme as etiologic agents of the condition called PANS, remain highly controversial. According to the NIH, PANDAS rarely occurs in children older than 12. Is this in fact true, or does the presentation of the disease differ as the brain matures?

SYMPOSIUM ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Program Chair: Dr. Gary Kaplan D.O., DABFM, DABPM, FAAMA

President of the Foundation for Total Recovery. Founder and Medical Director of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine. Author of <u>Total Recovery: A Revolutionary New Approach to Breaking the Cycle of Pain and Depression</u> (Rodale, 2014).

A Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine, Dr. Kaplan is one of only 19 physicians in the country to be board-certified in both Family Medicine and Pain Medicine.  Also board-certified in Medical Acupuncture, he has studied and practiced Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, Emergency Medicine, and Interventional Medicine, including Prolotherapy.

In response to growing numbers of patients presenting with heavy metal toxicity, Dr. Kaplan received certification in the science and practice of chelation therapy from The American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM).  In 2013, Dr. Kaplan was appointed by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, to the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee (CFSAC), where he served until 2017.

Co-Chair: Joseph A. Bellanti, M.D.

Soon after arriving at Georgetown in 1963, Dr. Bellanti realized that his goal of generating new knowledge in immunology and translating it to clinical use would require adopting a multidisciplinary, translational approach to immunology that would involve a horizontal matrix including both basic and clinical investigators, allied health professionals, statisticians, and health educators and the public. Accordingly, in 1975 he established and became the Director of the International Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Immunology at Georgetown University Medical Center and later Director of the Division of Allergy-Immunology, Department of Pediatrics and the Division of Virology and Immunology in the Department of Laboratory Medicine of Georgetown University Hospital.

Dr. Bellanti has focused a major investigative effort on antimicrobial research, evaluation of new vaccine strategies and developmental immunology.  With other investigators, he has studied antibody and phagocytic cell function in the newborn human and in experimental model systems. He and his colleagues described the antiviral activity of the secretory IgA system in respiratory secretions and later cellular responses to viral infections following immunization or natural infection. Dr. Bellanti’s academic career has been nurtured by his previous research that has focused on the immunopathogenesis of infectious diseases, and the allergic and autoimmune disorders. His experience as a GUMC clinical investigator was established by a track record of successfully directing major R01, Center and Program Project awards as well as training grants. In addition to teaching medical students and residents, he directed a postgraduate training program in developmental immunology from 1968-1996 and a clinical residency program in allergy and immunology from 1978 -1992. The ICISI has trained over 300 postdoctoral candidates in basic and clinical immunology who come to the Center from the US as well as from countries throughout the world. Dr. Bellanti draws upon his pioneering experience as an established clinical investigator in the field of translational research in immunology.

Co-Chair: Dr. Amiram Katz, MD, DABPN


Amiram Katz, a Board-Certified Neurologist, practices at MedAhead Inc. where he sees patients with protracted tick-borne diseases among other neurologically compromised patients. He was recently recognized by Marquis Who’s & Who Top Doctors for dedication, achievements, and leadership in neurology.

Dr. Katz attended the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, where he earned an MD in 1976 with Magna Cum Laude. He went on to complete a residency in Internal Medicine at Sheba Medical Center in 1980, a residency in Neurology at Tel Aviv Medical Center in 1984, a fellowship in medical hypnosis at the University of Haifa in 1985, a fellowship in Clinical Neurophysiology at the Cleveland Clinic in 1988 and a fellowship in Clinical Epilepsy at the Yale School of Medicine in 1989.

Dr. Katz additionally holds numerous certifications in his field, including an Israeli specialist’s Certificate in Neurology, which he earned in 1985 and American Board certification of Psychiatry and Neurology he earned in 1992. He was certified as a Diving Medical Officer in 1976 and a Medical Officer with the Israeli Academy of Military Medicine.

He is in solo practice with MedAhead, Inc., in Orange, Connecticut since 2004. Dr. Katz has been the president of this company since 1995 and has also been a consulting neurologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Neurology at Yale University School of Medicine from 1993 to 2013. He was a partner in Neurology Associates of Norwalk PC, from 1993 to 2002. During those years he served as the Medical Director of the Epilepsy Foundation of Connecticut. From 1993 to 2002, Dr. Katz was the Director of the Epilepsy Center, Co-Director of Diving Medicine and Associate Director of Sleep Medicine – all at Norwalk Hospital. From 1996 to 1998, he served as the medical director of Telemedicine Consultants America, LLC.

In recognition of his accomplishments in his field, Dr. Katz has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors. He won the Merritt Putnam Fellowship of the American Foundation in Epilepsy in 1988, the William Gowers Epilepsy Fellowship of Abbott Pharmaceuticals in 1989 and the Hans Berger Epilepsy Fellowship of the American EEG Society in 1990. From 2002 to 2014, he was listed among the Top Doctors in the New York Metro Area with Castle Connolly, and in 2010 and 2013 he was named Most Compassionate Doctor by Patients’ Choice. In 2008, 2010, and 2012, he was awarded Best Doctor by Patients’ Choice, among myriad further accolades. In 2016 he opened a new Company, DK Electronics, LLC, to promote an FDA approved medical device he invented – FlowKeepers® – that helps prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). In the past 5 years Dr, Katz ran an IRB approved clinical trial examining the safety and efficacy of intra thecal Immunoglobulin administration to patients with Alzheimer’s disease. A treatment that shows promise in a variety of neuroinflammatory conditions. In the coming years, he intends to experience continued growth and success with his medical device, his research and clinical trials.

Nour Amri, M.S., C.N.S, L.D.N.

Symposium Manager:  In addition to organizing this symposium, Nour serves clients as a Licensed Integrative Nutritionist and a Certified Nutrition Specialist at the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine. After earning her Master’s degree from Maryland University of Integrative Health, she received her certification as a Mind-Body-Medicine Facilitator at Georgetown University School of Medicine.  In her approach to nutritional well-being Nour applies the principles of Integrative and Functional Nutrition, emphasizing healthy eating in accordance with an individual patient’s unique genetics, lifestyle, and health concerns.  In 2016 Nour did a poster presentation at the International Congress of Integrative Medicine and Health (ICIMH), in Las Vegas, Nevada, titled “Conventional Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis: An Attempt to Treat or Aggravate the Disease.”  More recently, Nour has worked extensively alongside Dr. Kaplan on a project that studied the human-gut microbiome and its role in the pathophysiology of chronic pain and depression. She is now working to develop dietary plans for patients of the Kaplan Clinic who are suffering from a variety of neuroinflammatory and autoimmune conditions.