Lyme Disease Does Not Cause Neuropsychiatric Disorders

Just having a positive serological blood test, indicating previous exposure, is not a risk factor for depression or cognitive or functional decline in older people. This is the conclusion of a study looking at retired farmworkers in France, and published in JAMA Neurology, September 27, 2019.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, transmitted by a tick bite, mainly in rural wooded areas. Early symptoms include a rash, joint pains, and facial nerve palsies. It is easily treatable by antibiotics.

 In many people the tick bite and rash go unnoticed, they are treated inadvertently with antibiotics for an unrelated condition, and they are left with a positive blood test for life. In the group of farmworkers, 6.5% were positive. In some areas of the US, seropositivity is as high as 9%.

The concept that late treated or untreated Lyme disease is responsible for a multitude of non-specific symptoms lead some to gravitate to “Lyme disease specialists,” who prescribe prolonged courses of high-dose intravenous antibiotics. Some patients even have an “IV port” inserted. In the opinion of almost all infectious disease specialists, any improvement is likely a placebo effect. This has been my experience as well.

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