“Designer drugs” urgently needed for Lyme disease
Press release, September 13, 2016:
Lyme disease is a growing worldwide epidemic, and large “Big Data” surveys suggest that currently recommended antibiotic therapy is failing, according to a report published in the prestigious medical journal Infection and Drug Resistance.
Lyme disease is a tick-borne infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of corkscrew-shaped bacteria known as a spirochete. The Lyme spirochete is most often transmitted by the bite of a black-legged tick, although person-to-person transmission via intimate contact similar to Zika virus has also been suggested.
Recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that Lyme disease is much more common than previously thought, with over 300,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States. That makes Lyme disease six times more common than HIV/AIDS, 20 times more common than hepatitis C virus infection and 30 times more common than tuberculosis in our country.
“Lyme disease is a growing epidemic,” said Lorraine Johnson, chief executive of the non-profit LymeDisease.org that oversees an online registry called MyLymeData with over 5,000 patients enrolled. “The use of ‘Big Data’ surveys is finally revealing just how bad the disease really is.”
The latest report points to staggering numbers of patients who fail short-course antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease. One study that mined a database of 47 million patients found that symptoms of Lyme disease could persist in up to two-thirds of patients despite antibiotic treatment.
“The use of these large surveys will unlock the truth about Lyme disease,” said Dr. Peter Mayne, who recently published the first comprehensive study of Lyme disease in Australia. “The outdated antibiotics used to treat the disease were developed 60 years ago, and they just don’t work well anymore.”
Dr. Raphael Stricker, an author of the report and Past President of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS), pointed to the next steps needed to eradicate Lyme disease. “We need designer drugs just like the ones that have revolutionized the treatment of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C virus infection,” he said. “The sooner that we start working on those ‘miracle’ drugs, the better for the world’s Lyme disease sufferers.”