Recent research in monkeys showed that antibiotic treatment for four weeks didn’t eradicate all Lyme disease-causing bacteria. What does this mean?
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Most Lyme disease sufferers will only need to take a few days of antibiotics to get rid of the common tick-borne illness. For others, however, the symptoms may persist for weeks or even months after treatment.
Recent papers in PLoS ONE, and the American Journal of Pathology support the idea that some people who have been treated with antibiotics may still experience symptoms months or years later.
Experts caution that the monkey study may not be applicable to humans as the results could have been applied to other species. These papers are based on a single study that Tulane University researchers conducted.
Researchers examined the presence of Borrelia Burgdorferi, the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease in rhesus monkeys before and after antibiotic treatment.
Longer symptoms, delayed diagnosis
Many people don’t know that a tick bit them. They may not get the bullseye-shaped rash which would prompt them to seek medical attention sooner.
It is possible that weeks or even months have passed before people present at the doctor’s with more serious symptoms like heart disease, headaches, or weakness.
Monica Embers PhD, assistant professor of microbiology at Tulane University School of Medicine stated in a press release, that antibiotics can help Lyme disease sufferers but not enough if the diagnosis is delayed.
President of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society Dr. Samuel Shor cites the study as proof that a low-level persistent illness may be responsible for some long-term symptoms experienced by Lyme patients.
Shor explained to Healthline that “the problem is that the organism can continue to infect multiple parts of the body and eventually result in what we call chronic Lyme disease.”
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention point out that “chronic Lyme disease”, as the CDC calls it, is not a common term.
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Antibiotics can be used for a short time
The Infectious Diseases Society (IDSA), and the CDC recommend that Lyme disease treatment be completed in a single course of antibiotics. This should not exceed 21 days.
Studies show that Lyme disease patients who have lingering symptoms don’t need additional antibiotics.
“High-quality studies that examined people with persistent Lyme disease symptoms following treatment have not shown that antibiotics have any lasting or significant benefits,” stated Dr. Paul Auwaerter of IDSA, who is also the clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases. He is also a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, 10-20% of Lyme patients who have received antibiotics for the disease will experience fatigue, pain in their joints or muscles, and difficulty thinking six months after treatment.
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People point to the monkey study as proof that Lyme disease bacteria can still be present in the body even after antibiotic treatment.
Lyme disease symptoms that persist
Hence, why are some Lyme patients still experiencing symptoms even after they have been treated?
This is the big question that researchers are trying solve
Shor addressed the Tick-Borne Disease Working Group in December about Lyme disease. It was created as part of the 21st Century Cures Act.
Shor stated, “It is the hope for the Lyme community that the working group will both identify the issues and clarify some of them which I’ve alluded to.”
He and others believe that more accurate Lyme disease testing is needed and that a new treatment approach is required.
Shor said, “It’s an incredibly stormy situation.” “Where you have a difficult to diagnose condition, it’s much more common than people realize. That’s why many medical professionals are questioning the validity of this diagnosis for different reasons.”
Auwaerter doesn’t believe that long-term complications are caused by lingering infections. He supports the limited benefits of prolonged antibiotic treatment.
One possibility that long-term symptoms could be caused by “debris” from an infection is he said.
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Lyme disease is a complex infection that can cause symptoms to persist for years or even decades.