Post-Lyme Disease Syndrome
Some patients with Lyme disease still experience symptoms (such as fatigue, soreness and memory or concentration loss) after their treatment has finished. They are sometimes diagnosed as having chronic Lyme disease or post-Lyme Disease Syndrome. What causes these symptoms has become the subject of controversy. One side of the argument is that immunologic mechanisms are triggered by the initial infection, leading to long-term symptoms even after treatment (Post-Lyme Disease Syndrome). The other is that the stealth nature of the bacterium may lead to treatment failure and therefore some doctors believe that longer, more aggressive treatment is required. Both treatment failure and Post-Lyme Disease Syndrome have been poorly defined and currently no definitive test exists to determine whether an infection has completely resolved.
New research has established that patients diagnosed with Post -Lyme Disease Syndrome have antibodies that suggest they carried the infection for an unusually long time. Researchers discovered that antibodies in these patients recognise changes in the bacteria’s outer surface protein which leads to the patients having a greater variety of antibodies than those whose infection cleared up quickly.
This finding suggests that patients with chronic symptoms have experienced a prolonged infection, caused by microbes that have evaded the immune system. The researchers suggest this could mean that the patients naturally have a different antibody response to the infection than most people, or that they weren’t treated properly, or that they were re-infected and the second infection was never treated. The study is the first of its kind which demonstrates immunologic difference between someone who resolves their infection and someone who develops post-Lyme Disease Syndrome. The presence of varied antibodies hints that the chronic symptoms could be caused by an ongoing inflammatory response caused by antibodies mistakenly reacting to the body’s own proteins.