Scientists find out why some Lyme disease symptoms linger for years

Some patients who recover from Lyme disease, after being bitten by a deer tick, report symptoms months or even years afterward. These reports are difficult for doctors to handle because these patients no longer have the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, in their systems. And the symptoms, including fatigue, soreness and memory or concentration loss, could be applied to chronic fatigue syndrome or depression. So, as Nature News reports, these cases have simply been categorized and filed as "post-Lyme disease syndrome." Now, a researcher at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York has found a possible biomarker that indicates which Lyme disease patients will experience those lingering symptoms.

Immunologist Armin Alaedini and colleagues found that more antibodies tended to cling to a surface protein on B. burgdorferi, called VIsE, in post-Lyme patients than those who did not report lingering symptoms. The researchers suggest that the disease stayed longer in those who produced more antibodies to combat the microbes, which kept changing the VIsE epitopes (snippets of protein) they carried.

"That could mean they naturally have a different antibody response to the infection than most people; it could mean they weren't treated properly; or it's possible they were reinfected and the second infection was never treated," Alaedini tells Nature News. The Scientist reports that the finding "open the door to the possibility of a predictive biomarker that could help physicians identify Lyme patients at risk for developing the chronic form of the disease and treat them with more aggressive courses of antibiotics."

- read the story in The Scientist
- and in Nature News
- here's the abstract in the journal Clinical Immunology