Connecting The Dots Between Lyme Disease And Covid
Global Lyme Alliance research at UND could provide leads for COVID, other diseases
Is there a connection between why some people with Lyme disease and some with COVID-19 experience long-term effects to their central nervous systems?
Known as neurological Lyme disease , the condition affects about 10% to 20% of those who contract the infection after being bitten by black-legged deer ticks. Rather than recovering from the disease, they continue to experience such symptoms as severe headaches, brain fog, facial paralysis, sensitivity to light and memory loss.
Whats learned about the similarities between the long-lasting effects of Lyme disease and COVID could apply to other infectious diseases as well.
UND researchers Catherine Brissette, associate professor of biomedical sciences in the School of Medicine & Health Sciences, and Timothy Casselli, research assistant professor, are developing a model with funding from the Global Lyme Alliance they believe can help answer these questions.
Theres a lot of interest in this now because of long COVID, Brissette noted. But there are probably other infections in which you have a post-infectious syndrome where people have brain fog and fatigue and a constellation of symptoms of not feeling like theyre back 100%.
We hope our research will help add some clues as to why people have those kinds of things, she added. I actually think its broader than Lyme disease.
Immune Profile To Distinguish Long Covid
In an exclusive video featured on MedPage Today, Harlan Krumholz, MD, Director of the Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Yale, speaks about a preprint he co-authored still under peer review on the use of immune profiling to differentiate long COVID. Results of the initial study indicate that the syndrome can be explained and indicated through biological methods. The study examines people infected relatively early in the pandemic including a group with persistent symptoms, one with good recoveries, and a healthy control group.
On the patient-reported side of the study, patients who reported long-term COVID symptoms had a particular set of symptoms including brain fog, fatigue, dysautonomia, as well as wide-ranging symptoms that were specific to this group.
Dr. Krumholz points out the many theories that exist about what causes long COVID: viral persistence, autoimmunity, disruption of the microbiome, reactivation of other viruses, and tissue damage starting with the acute infection. But many doctors even doubt long COVIDs existence, he indicates in the articleclarifying that he, along with colleagues who have been talking with patients, are convinced that long COVID is real and that people are suffering.
A key finding was the common occurrence of low cortisol levels in those with long COVID. This discovery was associated with disease severity and raised the possibility that this assessment could be used as a screening mechanism.
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What Is Cdc Doing
CDC is currently conducting research to understand what concerns healthcare providers and the public may have about any potential Lyme disease vaccines. Once a Lyme disease vaccine is approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration , CDC will work with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to develop recommendations about where in the U.S. the public might benefit from a Lyme disease vaccine. CDC will communicate these recommendations to increase awareness of a vaccine among the public and clinicians to prevent Lyme disease in the United States.
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Lyme Can Be A Risk Factor For Covid Complications
Lyme and other tick-borne diseases can compromise the immune system, making it harder to fight off illnesses like COVID-19. Additionally, a compromised immune system may make it more likely that a COVID infection will have more severe symptoms and/or require hospitalization.
Patients with untreated, undertreated, and/or chronic Lyme may be at higher risk and should take extra care to follow the latest COVID safety precautions.
Lyme Exposure Correlates With Covid Severity
Figure 4.et al
Scientific Reports, , published Correlation between COVID-19 severity and previous exposure of patients to Borrelia spp. on September 24, 2022. Researchers found an association between the severity of the course of COVID infection in patients that also had evidence of past Lyme disease infection.
Investigators identified COVID-positive patients that also had exposure to Lyme through serological testing of patients blood for multi-antigens. They evaluated three groups of patients: patients with severe COVID requiring hospitalizations, those with asymptomatic-mild COVID, as well patients that had not been infected by COVID. Findings showed that patients with increased levels of Lyme IgG antibodies strongly correlated with increased COVID illness severity and hospitalizations. In fact, all hospitalized patients in the study tested IgG antibody positive for Borrelia spp.
Though the understanding of this link is still not clear, evidence from this research suggests that previous Lyme disease infections play a role in COVID risk and severity of illness. The authors suggest that screening for Lyme antibodies may help assess patients that are at higher risk for hospitalization due to COVID.
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Does Having Lyme Disease Increase The Risk For Severe Covid
According to the CDC, nearly one in five American adults who have had COVID-19 currently have chronic symptoms. With the U.S. approaching 100 million cases of confirmed COVID-19, that would mean nearly 20 million adults have long COVID.
Ive heard from many Lyme disease patients who say their Lyme symptoms flared after they contracted COVID-19.
The symptoms I hear about most are fatigue, migrating joint pain, difficulty concentrating , fibromyalgia-like muscle pain and sleep disturbance. Several patients I know have been placed back on treatment for Lyme disease and have seen significant improvement in their symptoms.
Many Also Had Markers For Anaplasmosis
Incidentally, the severe COVID-19 patients were also found to have significantly higher levels of IgG markers specific to Anaplasma antigens .
Anaplasmosis, also known as human granulocytic anaplasmosis , is caused by the Anaplasma phagocytophilum bacterium. Anaplasma is commonly found in small mammals and rodents, and can be transmitted to humans by the bite of the same blacklegged tick that transmits Lyme disease.
The authors consider several possibilities for the evidence linking prior Lyme disease to increased severity of COVID. One possibility they propose is that a delayed diagnosis leading to prolonged Lyme disease might affect the immune system, decreasing its efficacy in antiviral responses in the viral infection.
While correlation does not equal causation, this study supports the suggestion that increased risks in COVID-19 are linked to a history of ticks bites and related infections. Screening for antibodies that target Borrelia and other tick-borne infectionsand treating appropriatelymay improve outcomes and reduce hospitalizations for SARS-CoV-2 infected patients.
LymeSci is written by Lonnie Marcum, a Licensed Physical Therapist and mother of a daughter with Lyme. She has served two terms on a subcommittee of the federal Tick-Borne Disease Working Group. Follow her on Twitter: @LonnieRhea Email her at: email@example.com.
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Is It Coronavirus Or Lyme Disease Similar Symptoms Could Create Confusion
Feeling sick with a fever even a slight one along with chills, fatigue and achy joints during this pandemic era may all seem to point to the coronavirus, particularly in summer with flu season still months away. But there may be another culprit: Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is just as common this year as it was last year or the year before, Dr. Daniel Cameron, a Lyme disease specialist in private practice in Mount Kisco, New York, told TODAY.
Whats more, Lyme disease, which is caused by bacteria or a parasite in a tick, has a reputation for imitating other conditions.
It triggers cytokines, the inflammatory process, and by triggering the whole natural immune system, it will mimic some other infections that affect the immune system, Cameron said. When the immune system is working hard to clear the infection, it may cause symptoms very similar to COVID-19.
There are a number of symptoms that could indicate either COVID-19 or Lyme disease. These symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include:
The Best Luxury Gifts That Are Totally Worth The Splurge
One of the major problems with coronavirus is our difficulty diagnosing it. The antigen tests have been unreliable with false negatives in up to 30% of tests and lesser inaccuracies . With coronavirus, scientists have only been working on diagnostics for ~6 months. Researchers just announced what appears to be a major breakthrough with a more accurate and rapid test using saliva, SalivaDirect.
Yet with Lyme, despite years of study, diagnostic tests are likely only ~50% accurate in diagnosing the disease.
Research and funding
The government has thus far authorized $3.7 trillion for coronavirus support, including $25 billion for testing.
In contrast, funding for Lyme and other vector-borne diseases is consistently far lower than for other infectious diseases. The CDC reported to me that:
The FY20 enacted appropriation was:
$38.6M for vector-borne diseases, which is being used to prevent and control mosquito-borne, tickborne, and fleaborne diseases, and
$14M for Lyme and other tickborne diseases, which was dedicated entirely to tickborne disease prevention and control activities.
We do not further delineate between the budget dedicated to mosquito-borne vs. tickborne disease funded by the vector-borne disease line.
Federal funding for Lyme vs other infections
Lyme and other tick-borne diseases are expanding in the US along with the range of ticks.
Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images
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Get Vaccinated And Boosted
Vaccines may not prevent getting infected, but they do charge up your immune system to fight the infection and prevent serious illness. In my case, I was boosted three weeks before I got infected. I have no doubt this is why I have done so well. Vaccination helps you, but it also will do a great job of keeping you out of the hospital. In this way vaccination is personal, but it is also part of your civic duty to stop burning out healthcare workers in our hospitals. Those that are fully vaccinated and boosted stand the best chance at protecting themselves and the healthcare system.
For more information about Lyme and Covid-19 vaccination safety see: The Covid Vaccine and Lyme Disease.
Key Findings From One Large Cross
Underlying Medical Conditions and Severe Illness Among 540,667 Adults Hospitalized With COVID-19, March 2020March 2021
This study used data from the Premier Healthcare Database, which represents approximately 20% of all inpatient admissions in the United States since 2000. This cross-sectional study of 540,667 adults hospitalized with COVID-19 included both inpatients and hospital-based outpatients with laboratory-diagnosed COVID-19 from March 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021. The database included reports from 592 acute care hospitals in the United States. The study was designed to examine risk factors associated with severe outcomes of COVID-19 including admission to an ICU or stepdown unit, invasive mechanical ventilation, and death.
- Certain underlying medical conditions were associated with an increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness in adults.
- Having multiple conditions was also associated with severe COVID-19 illness.
- Obesity, diabetes with complications, and anxiety and fear-related disorders had the strongest association with death.
- The number of frequent underlying medical conditions increased with age.205
Kompaniyets L, Pennington AF, Goodman AB, Rosenblum HG, Belay B, Ko JY, et al. Underlying Medical Conditions and Severe Illness Among 540,667 Adults Hospitalized With COVID-19, March 2020March 2021. To learn more, visit the Preventing Chronic Disease article:
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If You Are Exposed To Covid 19
1. Limit Virus Infectivity/Replication and Decrease Cytokines*
- Zinc Picolinate 60 mg a day
- Quercetin 250-300 mg 2 pills 3 times a day
2. Prevent Cytokine Storm*
- Curcumin 500 mg 1 pill 3 times a day
- Liposomal glutathione 500 mg 1 time a day
3. Support the Immune System*
- Vitamin D 5000 IU 1 time a day. Be careful by working with your physician to keep your level between 50-80. Levels above 150 can be toxic.
- Probiotics 2 pills 1 time a day.
How Coronavirus Puts Lyme Disease Patients At Risk According To An Expert
Though anyone can develop a COVID-19 infection if they are exposed to the novel coronavirus, health officials have continued to stress that some groups of people â namely those who are older or have underlying health issues â are particularly at risk for severe infection should they fall ill.Included in that group are Lyme disease patients, Dr. Raphael Kellman, founder of Kellman Wellness Center, told Fox News.âPatients who have Lyme disease have a severely impacted immune system. A big component of Lyme disease is a hyperactive immune system that is always in a state of inflammation,â he explained, noting this factor, in particular, could make these patients more at risk for severe illness.With some 300,000 Americans diagnosed with this tick-borne disease every year, and with summer right around the corner, read on for a look at how Lyme disease patients could be adversely impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic in the U.S.
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Lyme Disease In The Era Of Covid
We describe a patient with fever and myalgia who did not have COVID-19 but instead had Lyme disease. We propose that the co-occurrence of COVID-19 and Lyme disease during the spring of 2020 resulted in a delayed diagnosis of Lyme disease due to COVID-19 pandemic-related changes in healthcare workflow and diagnostic reasoning. This delayed diagnosis of Lyme disease in the patient we describe resulted in disseminated infection and sixth nerve palsy. We present the use of telemedicine to aid in the diagnosis of Lyme disease and to provide prompt access to diagnosis and care during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and in the future.
Acute Lyme disease is a seasonal, tick-borne infection with both localized signs of infection of the skin and generalized so-called flu-like symptoms of fever, chills, sweats, malaise, myalgia, and arthralgia. These symptoms of Lyme disease are nonspecific and, in the absence of the recognition of the characteristic erythema migrans rash , can lead to misdiagnosis . Barriers to the accurate identification of the diagnostic EM rash include failing to do a complete skin exam and/or misidentification of the varied appearances of the EM rash .
2. Case Presentation
4. Patient Perspective
No data were used to support this case report.
Preparation of this case report did not receive specific funding but was performed as part of the authors employment at Johns Hopkins University.
Omicron Variant Of Covid
The Omicron Covid-19 variant is here. At first in Seattle, it was a whisper, and now it seems it is everywhere. I got infected with it at a superspreader event about one week ago. Fortunately, I am vaccinated and boosted – one week out and I am doing well. So Covid-19 is now personal. Here is what I know from my personal experience and managing those with Lyme who have Covid-19.
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The Good And Bad News About Omicron
Reports from the UK and from South Africa suggest the Omicron variant does not tend to cause severe disease. However, it is super infectious. This means many will get it. Most will not require hospitalization, but some will. And the numbers that will need hospitalization could still over-run the healthcare system which has staff already burned-out from Covid.
There is an interesting twist in this. Many people who have refused the vaccine will get infected and develop natural immunity. We could reach a level of community Covid-19 immunity from vaccinated and infected people so that by spring or summer – we could bet back to some normal patterns of living. Maybe Covid-19, with the Omicron variant, will have mutated itself out of being a worrisome infection. If this is true, Covid-19 will still circulate in our communities – but most of us will have some degree of immunity from the vaccine and from being infected so it will not cause major illness in low risk people.
Support Your Innate Immune System
There are two parts of the immune system that fight infections. One part is called the innate immune system and the other is called the acquired immune system. The innate immune system fights new germs, like Covid-19, the body has never seen before.
The acquired immune system includes cells and antibodies primed to fight infections which the immune system has learned to fight. For instance, in chronic Lyme it is white blood cells and antibodies in the acquired immune system that help fight the infection. The acquired immune system also is activated by vaccines. SeeHow to Boost The Immune System in Lyme for information about how to support the acquired immune system.
To fight Covid-19, it is the innate immune system that will act first. The innate immune system is composed of barriers like our skin and mucous membranes like those in the nose. It includes various types of immune cells like Natural Killer Cells , Dendritic Cells, Macrophages, Phagocytes, and Mast Cells. Some of the innate immune cells produce protein virus and bacteria germ killers.
A healthy lifestyle helps. Both parts of the immune system work best when one gets seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Emotional toxins like stress and worry suppress immune function – so find ways to destress like counseling, meditation, keep hobbies, visit friends, and exercise.
There are a number of supplements one can take to support and boost the innate immune system.
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Risk Factors For A Poor Outcome With Covid
People with high risk factors for getting severe illness or death with Covid-19 should take steps to limit getting the infection. High risk medical conditions include:
- Heart disease like congestive heart failure
- Lung diseases like chronic bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, and smoking damage
- Immunosuppression from chemotherapy or other illnesses
How To Prepare For Omicron
There are two parts to preparing for Omicron. One part is to prevent getting infected. The other is to boost the immune system to fight it.
An analogy to this approach is a house with a front porch. The vaccine does not keep intruders off your front porch. Vaccines do not work this way. A good mask and social distancing can keep intruders off your front porch. On the other side of your front door is your immune system army – ready to attack intruders that get throught he door. The vaccine and the booster prepares your army for the best fighting chance to keep you well and out of the hospital. There are also supplements and lifestyle steps you can take to prepare and support your immune system.
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