No Relapse When It Comes to Second Lyme Infection

Lyme disease symptoms are the furthest thing from comfortable and a second time infection makes it even more of a nightmare. At least now we know there’s no relapse when it comes to a second time Lyme infection. A study says it’s reinfection, not relapse.

A small study from the New York Medical College in Valhalla, N.Y. looked at a group of 14 people who had 22 pairs of episodes of erythema migrans, one of the most common symptoms of the Lyme disease. Looking at genetic tests, researchers observed the second Lyme disease infection was different than the first.

The study addresses the debate that antibiotics might not exactly eliminate the bacteria completely. Instead it would only damage the bacteria temporarily since B. burgdoferi remains hidden after the antibiotic treatment. Then it would emerge again with the same symptoms. The findings in the research indicate that there’s no relapse with Lyme infections, but a reinfection.

“These data, in conjunction with available clinical and epidemiologic evidence, show that repeat episodes of erythema migrans in appropriately treated patients were reinfections and not relapses” reads the study published this Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The 17 patients in the study had recurring episodes of erythema migrans for years. In the study interval 1991 – 2011, most of the participants had the rash twice a year, whereas a few others had it three times. All the people in the study received antibiotics to treat the infection. Every time they recovered fully, yet the infection kept coming back.

Scientists took skin or blood samples from the patients while they had the infection and compared the results. The second Lyme infection was different from the first. Based on that data, researchers concluded that repeated cases of Lyme disease were each new infections.

It’s not just the symptoms of Lyme disease that give us the chills, but also the risk of being infected with more than one disease. In 2010, the CDC received reports of about 22,000 cases of Lyme infections and another 8,000 that were probable. So besides dealing with Lyme’s rash, fever, joint pain, fatigue, chills, tingling sensations and severe headaches you’d also be struggling with the babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.

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