Magazine article Newsweek

Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome Cases Are on the Rise, and Doctors Don't Know Why; Thousands of People Each Year Continue to Show Symptoms after Treatment

Magazine article Newsweek

Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome Cases Are on the Rise, and Doctors Don't Know Why; Thousands of People Each Year Continue to Show Symptoms after Treatment

Article excerpt

Byline: Kashmira Gander

For Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, these are the good old days. Because of a proliferation of white-tailed deer and other mammals that harbor the microbe and a seemingly endless supply of ticks to transfer it from deer to human bloodstreams, an estimated 300,000 people are infected each year in the United States. Left untreated, Lyme disease does a lot of damage: It can attack the heart and nervous system and trigger arthritis.

Fortunately, B. burgdorferi has not yet developed a resistance to antibiotics. That's good news for most bite victims who are lucky enough to notice the early symptoms--fever, headache, chills, fatigue, joint and muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes, plus a rash up to 12 inches from the bite site--and seek treatment with a three- to four-week course of antibiotics.

But not all patients walk away scot-free. For reasons that are obscure, one in 10 patients treated for Lyme disease continue to have symptoms for months and even years. These patients fall into a gray area called post-treatment Lyme disease (PTLD) syndrome, which is characterized by cognitive dysfunction, incapacitating fatigue and chronic pain, according to a study published in April in the journal BMC Public Health. The cost to the medical system is estimated at up to $1 billion a year in the U.S.

Doctors have sparred over what might cause PTLD syndrome. Some thought a few renegade cells of B. …

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