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Does Lyme Disease Affect Immune System

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Does Lyme Disease Treatment With Antibiotics Affect Antibody Levels

Lyme Disease Signs and Symptoms (2 of 5) | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Antibiotic treatment affects the pathogen . It does not directly influence antibody titers. However, if the treatment is successful and bacteria are removed from the host, the B-cells are not further triggered to produce new antibodies. As a consequence antibodies levels decrease after treatment. Thus, antibody levels are indicators of treatment success .

It Starts With An Unusual Bacterium

Lyme disease can affect any organ or system within the body, including the brain, nervous system, muscles, joints, and heart. Most cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. are caused by a corkscrew-shaped spirochete called Borrelia burgdorferi. This organism has a unique way of evading the human immune system starting as early as when the tick bite occurs and has learned to survive in the human body even when aggressive treatment attacks are mounted against it.

Youve Been Diagnosed With Another Condition Without A Known Cause

Like its cousin Syphilis, which is also caused by a spirochete bacterium, Lyme is called the great imitator because it can impact any organ system or tissue of the body, says Reihman. So, when someone is diagnosed with a condition that has no known cause, the cause is sometimes Lyme. Conditions that can stem from Lyme include Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Interstitial Cystitis, Autism, ADHD, Alzheimers, chronic pelvic pain, Rheumatoid Arthritis, chronic migraines, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, as well as a number of mental health conditions.

If the diagnosis doesnt have a known cause or cure and youre not satisfied with that as an answer, its worth it to look into getting treatment for Lyme and seeing if that makes a dent in your symptoms, says Reihman.

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The Effect Of Lyme Disease On The Immune System

Editor’s Note: This paper on Lyme Disease was written by AP Biology student Copeland M. IntroductionBackgroundbacteriumBorrelia burgdorferiAntibioticsImmune response- Chronic Lyme diseaseautoimmuneBorrelia burgdorferisBorrelia burgdorferiantibodiesBorrelia burgdorferiWhy the Immune System is IneffectiveBorrelia burgdorferispirochete, nonspecific defenses,flagellumpathogensVariations in the Immune SystemBorrelia burgdorferiVaccineTreatmentGlossary

Antibiotics — medicine that inhibits the growth of or destroys microorganismsAntibodies — blood protein produced in response to and counteracting a specific antigen. They combine chemically with substances that the body recognizes as alien, such as bacteria, viruses, and foreign substances in blood Autoimmune — relating to disease caused by antibodies or lymphocytes produced against substances naturally present in the bodyBacterium — a member of a large group of unicellular microorganisms that have cell walls but lack organelles and an organized nucleus, including some that can cause disease Borrelia burgdorferi — Bacterial species of the spirochete classSpirochete — a group of spiral-shaped bacteria, some of which are serious pathogensFlagellum — a whip-like structure that allows a cell to move. Found in all three domains of lifeNonspecificdefense — a barrier that helps prevent pathogens from entering the bodyPathogen — a bacterium, virus or other microorganism that can cause disease

Works Cited

What Does Lyme Disease Do To The Body

205 best Lyme Disease, Babesiosis, Anaplamosis, and other Tickborne ...

When a tick transfers Lyme to a humanduring feeding, the virus spreads through the bloodstream. It does this whenthe bacteria grabs hold of blood vessels and moves along inside the bloodstreamto areas of the body that will allow it to thrive. It is essentially the sameprocess as the immune cells in the body that are meant to ward off infectiousdiseases.

Once it reaches the areas where it ismost likely to survive, it sets up shop and begins attacking the system,including the nervous system, until it is either fought off with antibiotics orprogresses, leading to serious complications down the line.

Image by on : The bacteria that causes Lyme disease is a master imitator.

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Lyme Disease Frequently Asked Questions

If you have not done so already, remove the tick with fine-tipped tweezers.

The chances that you might get Lyme disease from a single tick bite depend on the type of tick, where you acquired it, and how long it was attached to you. Many types of ticks bite people in the U.S., but only blacklegged ticks transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Furthermore, only blacklegged ticks in the highly endemic areas of the northeastern and north central U.S. are commonly infected. Finally, blacklegged ticks need to be attached for at least 24 hours before they can transmit Lyme disease. This is why its so important to remove them promptly and to check your body daily for ticks if you live in an endemic area.

If you develop illness within a few weeks of a tick bite, see your health care provider right away. Common symptoms of Lyme disease include a rash, fever, body aches, facial paralysis, and arthritis. Ticks can also transmit other diseases, so its important to be alert for any illness that follows a tick bite.


Moody KD, Barthold SW, 1991. Relative infectivity of Borrelia burgdorferi in Lewis rats by various routes of inoculation.Am J Trop Med Hyg 44: 135-9.

There are no reports of Lyme disease being spread to infants through breast milk. If you are diagnosed with Lyme disease and are also breastfeeding, make sure that your doctor knows this so that he or she can prescribe an antibiotic thats safe for use when breastfeeding.

Your Symptoms Improve When Youre Taking Medication For Other Ailments

Patients taking antibiotics for an unrelated problem , will often report that their symptoms are much better while taking the antibiotic, and worsen when the antibiotic is stopped. Conversely, some individuals feel much worse on antibiotics, where all of their symptoms are intensified. This is called a Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction, where the Lyme bacteria are being killed off, and temporarily worsen the underlying symptoms.

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Chronic Lyme Disease Vs Acute And Late Stage Lyme

One reason chronic Lyme disease is harder to detect and treat than Lyme at earlier stages is that chronic Lyme disease symptoms are more wide-ranging and varied. Chronic Lyme disease can cause symptoms of early Lyme disease such as fatigue and muscle aches to recur, but it can also cause new symptoms that affect different parts of the body.

How Does Lyme Disease Evade The Immune System

Think the Lyme Disease Rash is Always a Bull’s-eye? Think Again! | Johns Hopkins Rheumatology

If Lyme disease is not diagnosed and treated early, the Lyme spirochete can evade the immune system and spread in the body, causing health problems months or even years after the infection occurs. Perhaps this is why there is so much confusion and difficulty in getting proper treatment for Lyme disease.

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How Is Lyme Disease Treated

Lyme disease is most often treated with antibiotics such as doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime for several weeks. Please complete the full course of antibiotics as prescribed, even if your child is feeling better, in order to kill all the bacteria.

If your child doesn’t respond to oral antibiotics, or if the Lyme disease is affecting the central nervous system, antibiotics may need to be given intravenously . This usually doesnt require your child to be hospitalized. In many cases, a nurse can come to your home to administer the IV or teach you or another family member how to do it.

Anti-inflammatory medicine may be prescribed for children who are experiencing pain from arthritis.

The Pain Changes And Moves Around The Body

Another classic trait of Lyme disease is the migratory nature of the pain. The muscle and joint pain, as well as the tingling, numbness and burning sensations often tend to come and go and move around the body. For example, one day the joint pain might be in the knees and a few days later it may be affecting another nerve. Especially when untreated, research says Lyme disease can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system.

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How Lyme Disease Subverts The Immune System

Press release from the University of California, Davis:

The bacteria that cause Lyme disease are able to trick an animals immune system into not launching a full-blown immune response or developing lasting immunity to the disease, report researchers at the University of California, Davis.

The discovery may explain why some human patients remain vulnerable to repeat infections by the same strain of bacteria, especially in regions where Lyme disease is prevalent. It also suggests that blood tests may not be an effective method for detecting previous exposure to Lyme disease, by far the most common vector-borne disease in the United States and Europe.

Findings from this mouse-based study are reported July 2 in the online scientific journal PLOS Pathogens, published by the Public Library of Science.

We demonstrated that an animal infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, the corkscrew-shaped bacteria that cause Lyme disease, launches only a short-lived immune response, and that protective immunity against repeat infections quickly wanes, said Nicole Baumgarth, a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine and an authority on immune response to infectious diseases at the UC Davis Center for Comparative Medicine.

This study also suggests a possible mechanism responsible for the disappearance of antibodies following infection and subsequent treatment with antibiotics, she said.

Do Antibodies To B Burgdorferi Determine Active Infection

283 best Lyme Disease Awareness images on Pinterest

In untreated animals, antibodies to OspC and/or OspF are indicators of infection with B. burgdorferi. Many infected animals dont show clinical signs and maintain constant antibody levels to the pathogen. It is believed that many animals can control the persistent infection. However, increasing antibody values indicate re-activation of or re-infection with the pathogen.

In treated animals, antibody levels decrease slowly and are usually still detectable for several months if treatment was successful.

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Winning The War Against Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is different for every individual. The severity of symptoms is highly dependent on your immune response and your overall health. This includes factors such as diet, stress, sleep, and fitness.

When youre seeking treatment for Lyme disease, its important to look for a doctor who takes a holistic approach. Here at Premier Health and Holistic Medicine, Dr. Robin Ridinger has spent years studying the intricacies of Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment. She has discovered that the best line of defense against Lyme disease is to fortify a healthy immune system. To that end, she takes the time needed to creates a personalized treatment plan that restores the health of each person from the ground up.

Is Lyme Not An Autoimmune Disease

Lyme disease is said to be an autoimmune disorder, but this is not necessarily true. This is because it is a systemic bacterial infection. The reason why Lyme disease is considered an autoimmune disorder is because the body’s immune system recognizes the cell that the tick-borne bacteria infects and hides in as foreign and attacks it, which can cause damage to healthy tissue. A previously healthy cell infected by the bacterium and attacked by the immune system doesnt necessarily indicate an autoimmune response since the body is targeting an infected cell.

The immune system’s response to Lyme disease also causes some symptoms that might be confused with those of autoimmune disorders as they are similar . These symptoms include joint pain and fatigue.

However, there is a key difference between how the immune system responds to Lyme disease and how it responds to other autoimmune disordersin most autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks healthy cells for no reason. Additionally, in most autoimmune diseases, the antibodies that attack the healthy cells remain in the bloodstream long after the infection or illness has disappeared. In Lyme disease, however, these antibodies are only present when a person is infected with Borrelia burgdorferi .

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If I Already Have Lyme Disease What Added Risks Does Covid

COVID-19 should pose no additional risks for you if your Lyme disease was detected early, you have been treated with antibiotics, and your symptoms have resolved. You may, however, be at a greater risk of complications from COVID-19 if your immune system is decreased from the more severe forms of Lyme disease, such as post-Lyme disease syndrome or chronic Lyme disease.

Do You Ever Fully Recover From Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease Diagnosis – Johns Hopkins (3 of 5)

Although most cases of Lyme disease can be cured with a 2- to 4-week course of oral antibiotics, patients can sometimes have symptoms of pain, fatigue, or difficulty thinking that last for more than 6 months after they finish treatment. This condition is called Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome .

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Early Symptoms Of Lyme Disease

More than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the Centers for Disease Control each year. The risk of Lyme disease is greatest in the spring and summer when the disease is commonly transmitted through tick bites.

Preventing tick bites is key to fending off an infection, but if you do get bit, look out for these early symptoms of Lyme disease:

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Can Lyme Disease Be Prevented

Not all cases of Lyme disease can be prevented. But you can help protect your family from tick bites. If you go into an area where ticks live, be sure to:

  • Stay in the middle of the trail, instead of going through high grass or the woods.
  • Wear closed shoes or boots, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. Tuck pant legs into shoes or boots to prevent ticks from crawling up legs.
  • Use an insect repellent.
  • Consider treating clothing and gear with permethrin to repel ticks. When used properly, permethrin is safe for all ages. But don’t use it on clothing or other material a child may suck on or chew.
  • Wear light-colored clothing to help you see ticks more easily.
  • Shower and wash hair after being outside to remove ticks before they attach.

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Follow A Doctors Advice On Vaccines

Doctors generally recommend that most people stay up to date with their vaccines.

However, they may advise a person with a weak or compromised immune system to delay or not receive certain shots.

If a short-term illness or a medication is responsible for the weak immune system, the person may be able to have the vaccine once the illness has resolved or they have stopped the treatment.

Examples of vaccines that doctors may recommend delaying or avoiding include:

  • MMR vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella

CDC recommend a vaccination schedule that most people should try to follow. However, people with a weak immune system should check with a doctor which vaccines are safe for them to have and then follow the doctors recommendations. Vaccines can prevent a person from getting seriously ill.

Research Story Tip: Lyme Disease Bacteria Alter Immune System And May Cause It To Attack Healthy Cells

The Immune System

With the incidence of Lyme disease rising to over 300,000 new U.S. cases annually, more people are suffering with the debilitating and persistent symptoms associated with what clinicians call post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. Now, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Research Center have found that the bacterium behind the disease, , causes significant changes in how the human body responds to its presence.

In a recent study, the researchers showed that Borrelia burgdorferi alters dendritic cells, which normally present antigens proteins from pathogens such as bacteria and viruses to immune system T-cells, signaling an immune response against the foreign invaders. However, Borrelia burgdorferi stops this communication, which may then lead to the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy cells.

We believe these observations are relevant not only to how Borrelia burgdorferi disrupts the immune system but other infections as well, says senior author , co-director for basic research at the Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Clinical Research Center, and professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Antibodies that react with a persons own tissues or organs have been reported in patients with infections, including COVID-19.

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A Strange Research Ecosystem: Discussing Lyme Disease With Victoria Blaho

As an infectious disease immunologist studying Lyme disease, Victoria Blaho is one of a rare breed.

Sanford Burnham Prebys assistant professor Victoria Blaho, Ph.D., investigates the biochemical signals of the immune system and how they impact our bodies abilities to fight pathogenic infections, a branch of immunology that has become much less popular since the advent of antibiotics in the early 20th century.

Blahos disease of choice is Lyme disease, an unusual tick-borne bacterial infection that affects some 476,000 people in America each year, a number that is on the rise.

We caught up with Blaho to talk about why Lyme disease research is important, the progress being made and the work that remains in studying this strange and burdensome disease.

Why is Lyme disease research important?Blaho: Lyme research is a very small field for a disease that is becoming bigger and bigger every year. Case counts are increasing for Lyme disease all over the world, and people get very sick from it. Some people are infected, take antibiotics and thats the end of it. But others have chronic symptoms like arthritis or carditis that can last for years and become completely debilitating.

Since then, my career has focused on exploring the signaling molecules that regulate inflammation and its resolution. These molecules affect all parts of the immune system and provide us with a whole host of different potential therapeutic targets for inflammatory diseases like chronic Lyme.

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