Why some people recover from Lyme disease while others experience chronic symptoms that last for months, years, or even decades has long baffled doctors. New research suggests that markers of the immune system in the blood are higher in people with Lyme disease symptoms, even after taking antibiotics.
in the A new studyIn a May 9 issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, researchers found that an immune system marker called interferon-alpha in the blood was higher among people who had been treated for Lyme disease. lasting symptoms.
Interferon-alpha is one of the key signaling proteins used to tell the body’s immune cells to fight bacteria or viruses. If blood levels are too high, the immune system can go into overdrive, causing pain, inflammation and fatigue – often the symptoms of Lyme disease.
Even in patients with high levels of interferon-alpha, the response to Lyme bacteria can cause chronic inflammation, even after the infection has passed, according to a new study by Clemen Stell, research assistant professor of molecular biology and microbiology at Tufts University and co-author of the book.
“We think this may be the cause of persistent symptoms,” Strle said. And since several drugs have already been approved to lower interferon-alpha, the study suggests it could be a possible treatment option to delay Lyme symptoms.
The study was small, including 79 people with Lyme disease, and only found an association between high interferon-alpha levels and persistent Lyme disease symptoms, not the immune marker itself causing permanent symptoms. A large clinical trial is needed to confirm the link.
Each year, between 30,000 and 500,000 people contract Lyme disease from tick bites. CDC. For most, the infection is mild and easily treated with antibiotics. About 10% have symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog with muscle, joint, and nerve pain that persist even after treatment.
The new findings represent a significant shift in understanding of why some People infected with Lyme Chronic symptoms suffer. Previously, some researchers believed that a unique strain of the Lyme-causing Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium might be the cause. Others thought that an undetectable low level of infection remained in the body after treatment. The new research suggests that the way the body reacts to the bacteria — not the bug — can cause long-lasting symptoms.
It’s still unclear why some people have elevated interferon-alpha, but Strle said he’s looking at a possible genetic cause.
Although interferon-alpha research is still in its early stages, Dr. Roberta DeBiasi, MD, chief of pediatrics at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., called it “very promising and exciting.”
“It provides a therapeutic target that can be studied in clinical trials to treat these patients,” she said.
For those who can handle it Persistent Lyme symptomsAny biological explanation for the condition called PageAust –TIn response dIsis Ssyndromeor PTLDS, is one step ahead.
Lyme symptoms for years
Rebecca Greenberg isn’t entirely sure she contracted Lyme disease for the first time, but she has her suspicions. Greenberg, now 26, remembers when she was 9 years old and playing on a playground near Albany, New York, when her mother made a small, firm gesture behind her. She probably had a lot of tick bites during her time in the Adirondack Mountains, but I didn’t worry about them until she started getting sick at age 15.
“I was so tired I’d tell my mom I wasn’t going to wake up for school anymore,” said Greenberg, who grew up in upstate New York but now lives in South Florida. “My muscles would hurt, my joints would hurt and I would get these migraines.”
Doctors told Greenberg her symptoms could be hormonal, and when Greenberg landed in the emergency room unable to move the left side of her body, they prescribed antidepressants and recommended she see a neurologist. Those doctors weren’t much help, Greenberg said. Her symptoms eventually became so severe that she stopped attending school and required a wheelchair.
In the year In 2011, a pediatrician friend suggested Lyme disease after Greenberg’s mother posted on Facebook about her son’s mysterious illness. Antibodies soon showed that Greenberg was infected with Lyme and two other bacterial infections, babesiosis bartonella.
Even now, she is still suffering from fatigue and nerve pain. She says the most debilitating symptoms of her Lyme disease are the psychiatric effects, including severe anxiety, depression and hallucinations.
“I’m putting Band-Aids on all my scars,” she said. “One sign turned my life upside down.”
Why is Lyme disease so difficult to diagnose?
As the geographic spread of Lyme ticks continues to spread, researchers and health officials acknowledge the urgent need for accurate tests that can pick up infection at an early stage.
“There is no doubt that Lyme disease and other tick-borne infectious agents are on the rise,” she said.
of The Environmental Protection Agency warns Disease-carrying ticks are most active in warmer climates, and climate change means the insects are more likely to survive the winter and spread into regions from the Northeast, northern California, and the Midwest.
Testing for Lyme disease is complicated, especially for doctors who aren’t familiar with the process, DeBiasi said.
“This causes many people with Lyme to miss or be told that people with symptoms don’t even have Lyme,” she said. “Combine that with the bad information on the Internet and you end up with a lot of confusion.”
Part of the problem is that once the bacteria is transferred from a tick to a human, it is quickly transmitted in the body at levels too low to test.
“Brandon Jutras, an associate professor in the biochemistry department at Virginia Tech, said it will be a matter of rapid identification.
Serology tests, which look for antibodies in the blood, are the best way to diagnose Lyme disease, experts say. However, antibody tests indicate whether the immune system has attacked a virus or bacteria, but they cannot detect an active infection. They don’t work until the immune system produces enough antibodies, which can take six weeks or more after the first tick bite.
The CDC recommends using a combination of antibody tests to diagnose Lyme disease, including an immunological antibody test such as an ELISA and an immunological antibody test such as a Western blot test.
Doctors and health officials recognize the need for more reliable Lyme disease tests that can detect infection early.
“We have to do better,” said Jutras, who is working with a team at Virginia Tech to develop a rapid Lyme test that can distinguish the actual infection from the first sign of a tick bite.
“What we’re really looking for is, ‘Does anyone still have Borreli spirochaetes?’ It is a test. [Lyme bacteria]Dr. Brian Fallon, director of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Research Center at Columbia University.
Controversy about ‘Chronic Lyme’
Because the diagnosis is inadequate, there is no way to link long-lasting symptoms to the original Lyme infection. Many doctors avoid diagnosing chronic Lyme because the term implies a persistent infection.
“There’s no way to say a Lyme diagnosis six years ago, six years ago, has nothing to do with symptoms now,” DeBiasi said. Symptoms such as muscle aches, fatigue, cognitive impairment, and depression are not uncommon. There are many possible causes for those symptoms other than the above.
Columbia University’s Fallon prefers the term “long term.”
“‘Chronic’ is a reasonable term if it refers to the presence of chronic disease,” Fallon said. “The problem is when someone thinks I have an ongoing chronic infection and needs more antibiotic treatment.”
DeBiasis insists that the symptoms people experience are real, even though the experiences of PTLDS are different.
As a pediatrician, she has seen panicked parents seek unproven treatments after discovering symptoms in their child. In a recent study published in the journal Pediatric researchDeBiasi and colleagues found that 75% of children with Lyme disease improved after six months of antibiotics, and 9% had symptoms that impaired their function after six months.
“If you give them a little more time, they seem to make a full recovery,” DeBiasi said.
With the exception of Pfizer and Valneva, which are testing a Lyme disease vaccine in clinical trials, the drug development industry has largely not put its energy or dollars into Lyme. Jutras said federal research grants are also lacking.
“Many private foundations have stepped up to the plate when it comes to funding Lyme research, but at the federal level, it may be time to rethink some of our priorities in terms of how we spend our research dollars.”
This article was originally published by NBCNews.com