Thursday, January 24, 2013
Differentiation of Reinfection from Relapse in Recurrent Lyme Disease
None of the 22 paired consecutive episodes of erythema migrans were associated with the same strain of B. burgdorferi on culture. Our data show that repeat episodes of erythema migrans in appropriately treated patients were due to reinfection and not relapse.
An editorial in the same issue states the implications quite explicitly:
The issue of relapse versus reinfection has a broader context because of patient-advocacy groups that promote months or years of antibiotic therapy for “chronic Lyme disease.” Moreover, chronic Lyme disease has become a common diagnosis for medically unexplained pain or neurocognitive or fatigue symptoms, even when there is little or no evidence of previous B. burgdorferi infection. Even so, these patients are said to have persistent infection, which can be suppressed only with months or years of antibiotic therapy, and the therapy must be restarted when symptoms recur. As concluded by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, there is no evidence of persistent B. burgdorferi infection in human patients after recommended courses of antibiotic therapy. Although B. burgdorferi infection may persist for years in untreated patients, the weight of evidence is strongly against persistent infection as the explanation for persistent symptoms in antibiotic-treated patients with Lyme disease.
Here's a report on the paper from the New York Times: New Infection, Not Relapse, Brings Back Lyme Symptoms, Study Says
(A) new study finds that repeat symptoms are from new infections, not from relapses.
The results challenge the notion, strongly held by some patients and advocacy groups, that Lyme disease, a bacterial infection, has a tendency to resist the usual antibiotic treatment and turn into a chronic illness that requires months or even years of antibiotic therapy.