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Slow Growing Variant of Lyme Disease Cure May Be In Sight

Friday, April 26th, 2019

Lyme disease makes about 300,000 people sick every year. It is caused by bacteria – Borrellia bacteria – that lives inside common ticks and is transmitted to humans by tick bites. Treatment is usually with a single antibiotic, doxycycline, amoxicillin or cefuroxime, which is taken for two to four weeks.

However, according to Discovery Medicine, 10 to 20 percent of people treated continue to suffer symptoms that include extreme fatigue, muscle and joint aches and severe brain fog that can last for months or even years.

Frankel & Newfield represents a number of claimants who suffer from the impacts of Lyme disease, so we routinely follow medical news on this public health menace. A study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has found that a slow-growing variant of Lyme bacteria may be behind the persistent and severe symptoms that afflict the segment of Lyme disease patients who do not respond to the single antibiotic treatment regimen.

The study found that a slow-growing variant form of Lyme bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, caused severe symptoms in a mouse model. Compared to the normal fast-growth forms, the slow-growing forms caused more severe arthritis-like symptoms and resisted standard antibiotic treatment in the test tube as well as in a mouse model. But a combination of a three-antibiotic “cocktail” – daptomycin, doxycycline and ceftriaxone – cleared the Lyme infection in the mice.

The scientists now hope to test the combination in people suffering from persistent Lyme disease.

There is considerable excitement in the field, because now it has been clearly demonstrated that people who suffer who suffer from persistent Lyme disease are not malingers, but are genuinely ill. There is also hope for a potential solution to the illness.

The post-Lyme treatment of the syndrome has been controversial in the medical field, because many studies of patients have failed to show Borrelia bacteria in the bloodstream after treatment. This is a standard treatment for revealing the presence of either an infection or a relapse. But Borrelia, like many other bacteria, has the ability to switch under low-nutrient conditions or other stresses from a normal fast-growth mode to variant forms as in “stationary phase” with little or no growth.

Studies have led researchers to consider that it may be possible to rid the body of these stationary phase variants with the right antibiotic treatment.

Study senior author Ying Zhang, MD, PhD, professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Bloomberg School, grew stationary-phase B burgdorferi and isolated two distinct no-growth forms, called microcolony and planktonic forms. They next confirmed that these forms are resistant to standard antibiotic treatment and even two drug combinations often used to treat Lyme disease. They also showed that these stationary-phase forms, compared to the normal-growing forms of Lyme disease bacteria, cause symptoms that are far worse in intensity and severity.

Physicians who have wanted to do clinical trials of antibiotic combinations in post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome are encouraged by the study results. Zhang and his colleagues are making plans for their own trial of the persister drug combination against post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. The excitement extends beyond Lyme disease, the researchers noted, as it may be possible that persister bacteria etiology may be present in other infectious diseases where symptoms extend past standard treatment.

Reference: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, “Three-antibiotic cocktail clears ‘persister’ Lyme bacteria in mouse study: Scientists isolate slow-growing variant Lyme bacteria forms that caused severe symptoms, resisted standard single-antibiotic Lyme treatment in the mouse model.” Science Daily, April 23, 2019.

Justin C Frankel

Written By:

Justin C. Frankel - Disability Insurance Attorney

Justin Frankel is a founding partner of the disability insurance law firm Frankel & Newfield and is a highly skilled litigator and advocate. He has published numerous articles on the challenges facing clients with private or individual disability insurance policies and those who own group or ERISA disability insurance policies.

Learn more about Justin | See Justin’s Publications



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