Magazine article Science News

Lyme Disease May Not Harm Kids' Brains

Magazine article Science News

Lyme Disease May Not Harm Kids' Brains

Article excerpt

Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, penetrates some people's brain tissue, where it can remain dormant for many years before causing cognitive disorders. That's one reason patients and physicians fear the illness.

In the first prospective study to look specifically for cognitive effects of Lyme disease in children, however, researchers came up empty-handed. None of the 41 youngsters examined suffered neuropsychological problems as a result of the infection, Wayne V. Adams and his colleagues at the Alfred I. duPont Institute in Wilmington, Del., report in the August PEDIATRICS. In 1993, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received almost 2,000 reports of Lyme disease in U.S. children.

In the study, the bacteria caused central nervous system disorders -- such as Bell's palsy -- in nine patients but no apparent cognitive ills.

However, the researchers administered neurological and cognitive tests only an average of 2 years after the patients became sick, and symptoms may take longer to develop, they acknowledge. As a result, the team continues to study the children. Also, these findings may not apply to anyone who did not receive treatment or received it too late.

In addition to the tests given to the participants, age 6 to 17, the researchers also compared the children's pre- and postdisease standardized achievement test scores.

Commenting on the study, pediatrician Ilona S. Szer of Children's Hospital and Health Center in San Diego cautions that "only in about 20 years can we be sure" that the bacteria left the children's brains unharmed. …

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