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US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention now lists Lyme disease as a cause of chronic symptoms.

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A new page on the CDC website entitled Chronic Symptoms Following Infections states:

“Infections can sometimes leave people with symptoms that last for weeks to months or longer, even after appropriate treatment. Some of these symptoms are well-recognized and specific to the type of infection, for example, loss of smell and COVID-19. Other symptoms are unexplained and general (e.g., fatigue or difficulty thinking). Similar symptoms can follow many different types of infections.”

“Some people with chronic symptoms following infections may not know which infection triggered the symptoms, or even recognize that they had an infection before their chronic symptoms began. People with chronic symptoms and unknown preceding infection may be diagnosed with myalgia encephalomyelitis/ chronic fatigue syndrome.”

The CDC list of disease agents that have been linked to chronic symptoms includes Borrelia burgdorferi (the bacteria that causes Lyme disease):

Chronic symptoms after Lyme disease

The terms Post Treatment Lyme Disease ( PTLD), Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS) or Chronic Lyme disease are often used to describe symptoms that persist after a standard course of antibiotic treatment. The incidence of persistent symptoms is acknowledged to range from 10-20 % of cases and can significantly impact patients’ health and quality of life.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have identified a range of common persistent symptoms and suggested that the cause of these symptoms is multifactorial and may include

  • Infection-induced immune dysfunction or auto-immunity

  • Chronic inflammation

  • Persistent bacterial infection or bacterial debris

  • Neural network alteration

  • Other tick-borne infections

  • Other biologic mechanisms of disease

Whilst the acknowledgement of the link with chronic symptoms does little to relieve the suffering of many patients at the present time, it does at least emphasise the need for ongoing research and improved clinician awareness.

Since early diagnosis is known to reduce the risk of developing chronic symptoms, a continued focus on public awareness campaigns is essential.

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