Proof That Chronic Lyme Disease Exists

Daniel J. Cameron

Department of Medicine, Northern Westchester Hospital, Mt. Kisco, NY 10549, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Daniel J. Cameron,

Received 11 December 2009; Accepted 26 March 2010

Academic Editor: Guey Chuen Perng

Copyright © 2010 Daniel J. Cameron. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

The evidence continues to mount that Chronic Lyme Disease (CLD) exists and must be addressed by the medical community if solutions are to be found. Four National Institutes of Health (NIH) trials validated the existence and severity of CLD. Despite the evidence, there are physicians who continue to deny the existence and severity of CLD, which can hinder e solution. Recognizing CLD could facilitate e described in the NIH trials. The risk to society of emerging antibiotic-resistant organisms should be weighed against the societal risks associated with failing to treat an emerging population saddled with CLD. The mixed long-term outcome in children could also be examined. Once we accept the evidence that CLD exists, the medical community should be able to find solutions. Medical professionals should be encouraged to examine whether: (1) innovative treatments for early LD might prevent CLD, (2) early diagnosis of CLD might result in better treatment outcomes, and (3) more e patients who have had prolonged illness and an associated poor quality of life.


The evidence continues to mount that Chronic Lyme Disease (CLD) exists and must be addressed by the medical community if solutions are to be found. Thirty-four percent of a population-based, retrospective cohort study in Massachusetts were found to have arthritis or recurrent arthralgias, neurocognitive impairment, and neuropathy or myelopathy, a mean of 6 years after treatment for Lyme disease (LD) [1]. Sixty-two percent of a cohort of 215 consecutively treated LD patients in Westchester County were found to have arthralgias, arthritis, and cardiac or neurologic involvement with or without fatigue a mean of 3.2 years after treatment [2]. Klempner trials’ subjects resenting with “well-documented, previously treated Lyme disease. . . had persistent musculoskeletal pain,  eurocognitive symptoms, or dysesthesia, often associated with fatigue” and were ill during a mean of 4.7 years after onset [3]. Fallon trial subjects presenting with “well-documented Lyme disease, with at least 3 weeks of prior IV antibiotics, current positive IgG Western blot, and objective memory impairment,” were ill during a mean of 9 years after onset [4]. Krupp LD subjects presented with “persistent severe fatigue at least 6 or more months after antibiotic therapy” [5].

There is also evidence that symptoms of CLD can be severe [4–8]. The Klempner trials described the quality of life for patients with posttreatment chronic Lyme disease (PTLD) as being equivalent to that of patients with congestive heart failure or osteoarthritis, and their physical impairment was “more than 0.5 SD greater than the impairment observed in patients with type 2 diabetes or a recent myocardial infarction” [3]. Fallon et al. described pain reported by patients with Lyme encephalopathy as being “. . .similar to those of postsurgery patients”, and their fatigue “was similar to that of patients with multiple sclerosis.” Limitations in physical functioning on a quality of life scale were “comparable with those of patients with congestive heart failure” [4].

Despite the above documented evidence, the 2006 Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) LD treatment guideline panel questioned the existence of CLD [9]. The IDSA panel concluded, “Considerable confusion and controversy exist over the frequency and cause of this process and even over its existence” [9]. The IDSA panel referred to chronic manifestations of LD as Post-Lyme disease syndrome (PLDS), PTLD and CLD. There are shortcomings for each term. The PLDS nomenclature implies that an active LD has been successfully treated, that any remaining symptoms 2 Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Infectious Diseases are merely harmless vestiges of previous illness, and that the patient has been cured. The term PTLD merely implies that LD has been treated with antibiotics for 10 to 30 days. The CLD nomenclature implies that chronic manifestations of LD are present with or without evidence of active infection that cannot be reasonably explained by another illness.

There is no objective way to rule out an active infection. Lab tests that can be very helpful in confirming a clinical diagnosis of Lyme disease (such as the ELISA and Western blot tests) are not useful in determining whether the infection has been adequately treated. Common LD symptoms such as Bell’s palsy, erythema migrans rash, meningitis, arthritis, or heart block, which are included in the current surveillance definitions, can be useful in “ruling in” Lyme disease, but the absence or disappearance of these symptoms cannot “rule out” an ongoing infection. A population-based, retrospective cohort study of individuals with a history of LD revealed that they were significantly more likely to have joint pain, memory impairment, and poor functional status due to pain than persons without a history of LD, even though there were no signs of objective findings on physical examination or neurocognitive testing [10]. Two recent mouse studies revealed that spirochetes persist despite antibiotic therapy and that standard diagnostic tests are not able to detect their presence [11, 12]. In sum, there are no clinical or laboratory markers that identify the eradication of the pathogen.

The IDSA panel also questioned the severity of CLD symptoms. The panel dismissed LD symptoms that persisted or recurred after their recommended, short-term course of treatment, stating that they were: “more related to the aches and pains of daily living rather than to either Lyme disease or a tickborne coinfection” [13]. The panel came to this conclusion despite four NIH retreatment trials that validated the severity of  symptoms on 22 standardized measures of fatigue, pain, role function, psychopathology, cognition, and quality of life (QOL) [9].

Denying the existence and severity of CLD will continue to hinder the efforts to find a solution. Even in a prospective trial of LD, 10 to 16% of patients treated at the time of an erythema migrans rash remained symptomatic a mean of 30 months after treatment; the results varied depending on the duration of antibiotics treatment [14]. The actual failure rate in this prospective at 30 months is uncertain, given that 38% of the subjects were not evaluable due to poor adherence, receipt of intercurrent antibiotics, or development of a second episode of erythema migrans [14]. Patients infected with many other kinds of common bacteria—such as those that cause tuberculosis, bronchitis, or UTIs—can experience relapses after an initial course of antibiotic treatment fails or proves inadequate. Doctors routinely retreat patients who relapse in order to achieve a cure and prevent chronic symptoms.Why should patients with Lyme disease be treated differently?

For the complete Research report and footnotes:


~ by Rob on June 18, 2010.

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