NEWS: Recent study suggests that Lyme disease can be sexually transmitted
Notes one researcher: “There is always some risk of getting Lyme disease from a tick bite in the woods. But there may be a bigger risk of getting Lyme disease in the bedroom.”
Press release, January 25, 2014:
Carmel, CA – A new study suggests that Lyme disease may be sexually transmitted. The study was presented at the annual Western Regional Meeting of the American Federation for Medical Research, and an abstract of the research was published in the January issue of the Journal of Investigative Medicine.
Lyme disease is a tick-borne infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of corkscrew- shaped bacteria known as a spirochete (pronounced spiro’keet). The Lyme spirochete resembles the agent of syphilis, long recognized as the epitome of sexually transmitted diseases. Last summer 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 almost twice as common as breast cancer and six times more common than HIV/AIDS.
“Our findings will change the way Lyme disease is viewed by doctors and patients,” said Marianne Middelveen, lead author of the study presented in Carmel. “It explains why the disease is more common than one would think if only ticks were involved in transmission.”
The present study was a collaborative effort by an international team of scientists. In addition to Middelveen, a veterinary microbiologist from Canada, researchers included molecular biologists Jennie Burke, Augustin Franco and Yean Wang and dermatologist Peter Mayne from Australia working with molecular biologists Eva Sapi and Cheryl Bandoski, family practitioner Hilary Schlinger and internist Raphael Stricker from the United States.
In the study, researchers tested semen samples and vaginal secretions from three groups of patients: control subjects without evidence of Lyme disease, random subjects who tested positive for Lyme disease, and married heterosexual couples engaging in unprotected sex who tested positive for the disease.
As expected, all of the control subjects tested negative for Borrelia burgdorferi in semen samples or vaginal secretions. In contrast, all women with Lyme disease tested positive for Borrelia burgdorferi in vaginal secretions, while about half of the men with Lyme disease tested positive for the Lyme spirochete in semen samples. Furthermore, one of the heterosexual couples with Lyme disease showed identical strains of the Lyme spirochete in their genital secretions.
“The presence of the Lyme spirochete in genital secretions and identical strains in married couples strongly suggests that sexual transmission of the disease occurs,” said Dr. Mayne.
“We don’t yet understand why women with Lyme disease have consistently positive vaginal secretions, whilst semen samples are more variable. Obviously there is more work to be done here.”
Dr. Stricker pointed to the unknown risks of contracting Lyme disease raised by the study. “There is always some risk of getting Lyme disease from a tickbite in the woods,” he said. “But there may be a bigger risk of getting Lyme disease in the bedroom.”
Reference: The Journal of Investigative Medicine 2014;62:280-281.
Presented at the Western Regional Meeting of the American Federation for Medical Research, Carmel, CA, January 25, 2014. http://afmr.org/Western/.
Additional information: firstname.lastname@example.org
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- January 25, 2014 at 8:47 pm
This is how I fear my husband got Lyme. I’ve been infected for over 20 years and we have been together nearly ten. 2 years ago he began to slowly become ill and in 2013 launched into full-blown Chronic Lyme. No history of a tick bite and previously very healthy. Tested CDC positive in August 2013 and has become just as debilitated as I have been. I worry if I may have passed on my coinfections as well. Terrifying! It truly makes you wonder if the actual amount of those infected is much much higher than even the Lyme community believes it to be.
- February 1, 2015 at 4:33 am
I just read this n my heart sank to my stomach. I was never told by my Dr I couldn’t have sex. N to now think I may have put my husband’s life in danger of this crappy disease makes me ill. Oh Lord don’t let him have this. It’s bad enough my 16yr old n I have it. Joys of 4 wheeling out on the uncles farm.
- October 9, 2016 at 3:00 pm
I heard from my highschool friend that she got it from her mother’s vaginal canal at birth. She had a grand mal seizure (classic lyme from birth) at around 1 years old and never had a seizure ever again. After that it was all sorts of weird health issues throughout life. It’s a great disservice that the sources we rely on for reliable health information don’t talk about this aspect of Lyme disease. I have not had children yet and I am sad I am destined for the spinster life and no biological children. I got my Lyme 3 months ago and am only in my 20’s. I think it is significant they found Lyme in vaginal secretions, but I think they need to do a larger scale study to 100% know for sure that it is being spread to people’s sexual partners.
- January 26, 2014 at 10:47 am
Wouldn’t it be interesting to find it’s been a venereal disease all along and tics caught it from humans?
- January 26, 2014 at 7:33 pm
I don’t believe this. Something is seriously wrong with the design of this study. Did they somehow control for the other other spouse having no possible other access to ticks? My husband gets Lyme a lot. I do too. He’s an arborist, I have a horse. This study just seems like nonsense to me.
- April 8, 2014 at 7:49 pm
They didn’t say they proved it could be sexually transmitted. They just proved that it was in %100 of sexual fluid from women and in about half of sexual fluid from men. You can speculate about what might happen from there.
- March 23, 2018 at 10:20 pm
Lyme is Chronic. So you could be re-triggering the same infection & getting New infections. EACH Tick carries different bacteria. Several varieties of side Co-infections too. NO cure yet, per ALL my NDs, herbalists who have Lyme themselves and you can follow Dr. Horowitz’s facebook wall for more info too.
- January 28, 2014 at 5:59 am
Though I can believe it, I think it will be just dismissed since it basically comes from our side. Unfortunately, their doesn’t seem to be that much funding for objective research by neutral parties, so we are kind of damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
- January 30, 2014 at 5:54 am
I saw this article and frankly, it makes pretty damned angry. I thank and applaud you for doing this research. It is long overdue!
Health professionals and researchers should have ASSUMED it was sexually transmitted until it was proven otherwise. Anything other than that is nothing short of malpractice in their part. And while I’m not a health professional, I’m no idiot either.
1. Lyme disease is a blood borne pathogen. Name one other blood borne pathogen that is not sexually transmitted. Can’t? That’s because THERE IS NONE. So why would health professionals not warn patients to practice safe sex? Again, as said, it’s nothing short of malpractice.
2. There are hundreds of thousands of DOCUMENTED cases of spouses and partners contracting Lyme Disease without any history of exposure through anything but sexual transmission. Again, why would you ignore, and disregard this data and information?
3. Finally, but certainly not least of all, knowing that the bacterium for Lyme Disease is a spirochete, they KNOW from their medical experiences with Syphilis, that it is a difficult bacterium to kill off, that it hides in tissues and organs, can lie dormant, and can cause neurological and psychological issues once it enters the brain. So the fact that it’s in fluids shared during intercourse should not have been a surprise for the medical community. Again, is this gross negligence, malpractice, or a cover up of something else?
The big question here isn’t whether or not Lyme Disease is sexually transferrable. It’s a reasonable assumption that it is for the reasons cited above!
The real question is why doctors and researchers in organizations (and the government) as were covering that up, and why were they denying the tests to prove partners had contracted it?
Is the answer, because the insurance companies didn’t want to pay for their tests and treatments? That would be my guess. And it is disgusting that these boards have denied these people testing and treatment. It not only is gross negligence and malpractice, it is criminal.
When you ask these questions what other, possible answer is there? Mass collusion or mass malpractice? They all are either hiding and covering this up, or they are all grossly incompetent and need to lose their licenses to practice medicine!
Thank you for exposing this continued debacle! Support foundations that fight for the rights of those sick with Lyme Disease. Demand investigations of the these criminal actions both within our government and those “other” organizations from your legislatures!
- February 1, 2014 at 6:23 pm
I think we are all infected with lyme disease and I think all of my exes have it. Including my current boyfriend who lives with me.
- February 9, 2014 at 9:07 pm
I AGREE. I THINK SO MANY FRIENDS ARE. THEY WON’T LISTEN.
- March 26, 2014 at 8:12 pm
Always remember there is no profit in curing disease.
- December 23, 2015 at 3:34 pm
Read the book: “Lab 257” about the US Government’s lab that created the new very virulent forms of Lyme Disease, and bird and swine flues. The cover-ups are real, and the pressure is coming primarily from the FDA, AMA and also the insurance companies that do not want to pay for treatment. The medical profession is immorally as well complicit in the failure to properly treat this horrible disease.
- February 9, 2014 at 9:05 pm
Can I sue my Dr. ?
- August 5, 2015 at 11:23 am
No, but you can sue the deer!
- February 10, 2014 at 12:20 am
I am a patient of Dr. Stricker’s and am positive for Lyme. I 100% contracted it sexually from my husband as I never go into wooded areas or had any interaction in areas with ticks. Please believe me when I say it is a sexually transmitted disease. If I had known this sooner, I would’ve sought treatment 2 years ago when my husband was diagnosed.
- August 14, 2017 at 6:55 am
But can sexual lyme coinfections be transferred?
- November 7, 2017 at 3:46 pm
Saying that you have NRVER been exposed is obsurd. I live in California. Most people think wooded areas. It was found in 56 of the 58 counties. People most often get it in their own backyard. Have you NEVER left you house?! You need to rethink your idea of ticks and where they live. Are there mice in buildings? Yes. Many. They are the biggest carriers of Lyme. Not saying it can not be sexually transmitted. I would like to see more research done in this area. Most families and spouses are exposed to the samr environments, same family pets and share blankets etc. This is not reliable enough to make a 100% sure assumption about it. All i am trying to say is- educate yourself. Ticks are everywhere and the size of a grain of sand at times… Just be aware.
- February 12, 2014 at 3:33 pm
Well, this is how I got lyme. I had a date with a woman that was bitten by a tick 2 weeks before and was starting abx treatment.
I could feel the “animal” going up the urinary tract for a few days and then in several months it travelled from the base of the spine up to the cerebellum. There it still is ofcourse. But ofcourse it could be that I allready had the infection and that some secundairy infection from my date triggered an immune weaking that made it possible for the Lyme to become active. Within 1 week after the date my whole body was covered in large red spots, migrans all over
- March 13, 2014 at 12:24 pm
That is terrifying. You are far ahead of the game for having it treated early. Always have protected sex!
- February 13, 2014 at 9:51 am
WOW! I am really glad I did some research on this topic. I have recently started a relationship with a GREAT woman who has chronic lyme. Our intimacy has been nothing more than kissing. Obviously, this is a topic her and I need to discuss. Robyn, your post is sooooo relevant.
- March 13, 2014 at 12:26 pm
This gives me hope that I will someday find a partner, despite having chronic lyme. I do believe the spriochete is in the saliva too. 🙁
Do practice safe sex to reduce your risk should the time come.
- January 11, 2015 at 12:03 pm
You can get syphilis from kissing.
- April 22, 2014 at 11:28 pm
I am considering having my 17.5 yr old tested for Lyme if I can convince her Dr to sign the labs….she has been in a relationship for awhile now and I know they have had oral sex. Should I be concerned?
- May 3, 2014 at 11:11 pm
I think I also gave it to my wife. I got bit in 1995 & had headaches & low level tiredness for years. Symptoms gradually grew over 16 years & finally one day BAM! Full steam ahead into chronic Lyme land.
My wife was developing other infections & issues along the way, with always something popping up & then going away. She too is getting very tired, but ever so gradually. She is becoming more like me when you could not tell it was an infection & everything seemed “normal.”
I check my own blood under a microscope & since getting sick I see a correlation between the spirochetes in my blood & my symptoms. The more symptoms I get, the more spirochetes I have and this is only from a pinch of blood from my finger. I am covered in billions, and billions, & billions of these. I would not be surprised if I shed them from my skin either.
I also find the spirochetes in her blood, but they are not prevalent to the extent they are in my blood. She is a ticking time bomb, just like i was.
- May 3, 2014 at 11:15 pm
Oh, I failed to mention that I love, love, love the outdoors & would jump anywhere & into anything as long as it is nature.
She is the exact opposite & is an indoor, dancing, party gal who does not like to get dirty in nature.
- October 1, 2014 at 4:19 pm
I have been diagnosed with Lyme and my LLMD believes my husband gave it to me. Afterall, when we had our initial visit, going through the symptoms, I did have many of them, but my husband had ALL of them! He has been diagnosed with so many things, but he refuses to see the dr. and get tested now! I am going crazy just trying to convince him about it.
- October 4, 2014 at 2:04 pm
I worked for a dentist years ago whose wife had a nearly debilitating case of Lyme disease. It wasn’t long before he soon had muscle aches, headaches and joint pain. He would joke around about having sympathy lyme symptoms.. In hindsight I think he probably contracted it from her.
- October 6, 2014 at 10:39 am
This is devastating news for me. I just met a super girl and she told me she had Lyme disease for the past 6 years but that anti-biotics had failed to fully treat her and that she still gets very fatigued from time to time.
We’ve been (very) intimate and naturally I’m concerned that I may have contracted or am about to contract it. What bothers me the most is that apparently there was a vaccine that was withdrawn from the market in 2001/2 because of low demand.
As this is a fluid borne illness and the pathogen was found in 100% of genital secretions from females with Lyme, then it seems like a straightforward fact that it’s only a matter of time and chance before it spreads from one partner to another – just like any other STD.
I wish this was more widely known…
- July 27, 2016 at 6:01 am
Did you ever get tested? I am in a similar situation currently, ex bf has lyme, we have been intimate and I have been feeling symptoms.
- October 28, 2016 at 1:55 am
Vince, I believe any vaccine was withdrawn due to severe immune side effects, not due to lack of interest.
I contracted LD in 2001 and remember there being only a veterinary vaccine either available or recently withdrawn as I mentioned. I don’t recall there being a human vaccine then.
- November 19, 2014 at 11:56 am
Here is another link citing the same animal studies that say Lyme is not sexually transmitted. But it also talks about the difference between syphilis spirochetes and B. burgdorferi spirochetes.
Can we have one of the researchers from the study comment on this? Dr. Stricker? Anyone?
- January 11, 2015 at 10:14 pm
I was diagnosed with Lyme and 3 co-infections last summer. I am very symptomatic. My husband got tested, and they found spirochetes in his blood. I am the only one doing any treatment, as he doesn’t have any symptoms. We have always had sex unprotected since we met, and were tested for all stds, and came up clean! After having sex with him, I get major flare ups. I really do believe it is sexually transmitted. I’m planning to write everyone I can to warn them – CDC, government officials, hospital administrators – etc. We need to get the word out NOW!!!! We need covered treatment, doctors who care, access to the best medical treatments, and community understanding. I live in California and people here are like Lyme – huh? What’s that?
- July 16, 2016 at 12:44 am
I can’t agree more!! We are living in a scary time,I believe lyme and their friends are gonna spread like wildfire.. I don’t wish this torturous on anyone. It runs lIves in every part. I feel like because a am alone that my voice won’t be heard. Who do you go to in order to fight to get everything paid for w insurance.?
I always say I want to start fighting, but then I’m stuck in my illness.
I want to scream to the world that it is sexually transmitted but my husband is very private. The last thing I want to do is admit I passed it to my husband BUT people need to know…it’s not just ticks smh
- July 27, 2016 at 6:03 am
Hi Jen, was your husband ever tested or diagnosed with lyme??
- January 24, 2015 at 3:30 pm
I like this article and it totally make sense. I have had chronic (12+yrs) Lyme with co-infections and have only been diagnosed and treated for the last four or five years maybe. My Dr. is not LLMD, there is not one in Arkansas. He has done his best to treat my disease with antibiotics and only three months of IV antibiotics per my insurance that felt that was all that was necessary for a cure, lol.
My Dr. felt that it was sexually transmitted as well and tested my Husband whom tested positive on western blot as well. My Dr. gave my Husband about 3 months of oral antibiotics and I guess he felt that was sufficient for now. Its been about a year now since he was off abx. and seems very tired all of the time, can’t kick bronchitis, has aches and pains sometimes in legs and mood fluctuations. I’m sure some of this could be due to male hormonal fluctuations because he is in his mid forties. I sure wish this world would wake up and take the statistics seriously !!! More cases than breast cancer !!! We can only hope that one day there will be a specific month dedicated to Lyme Disease, and that Lyme Green will be worn at NFL games…..
- February 25, 2015 at 8:50 pm
Can you possibly pass lymes just by kissing or oral sex
- December 21, 2015 at 8:50 pm
Huh? The article (and the research paper) says “Furthermore, one of the heterosexual couples with Lyme disease showed identical strains of the Lyme spirochete in their genital secretions.” If Lyme was being transmitted via unprotected sex then there should have been MANY MORE than one couple having an identical strain — if not all of them. The fact that there is only one couple actually would more strongly imply that Lyme is not sexually transmitted. Arguably if there is only one case of identical strains, it may have been more probable that the couple was bitten by ticks that inhabit the same locale. How Dr. Stricker draws his conclusion about Lyme disease in the bedroom is very tenuous and could possibly border on sensationalizing something without enough evidence. Because of the logical analogy to syphilis more research needs to be done, but this set of research (at least as presented) does not substantiate the analogy and actually may refute it.
- January 27, 2016 at 5:45 am
Been yellin’ this since 08…hello hello to those who are not awake…LYME+Co-Infections ARE Sexually transmitted, I personally know..Lyme+ is in our blood/organ donations…Lyme is also known to be given by Ticks but also MANY other insects…duh this is why we have an Epidemic spot into a Pandemic…so what “they” gonna do…spend more money in research counting ticks?….Hello…it’s time to get with the program here….tests…accurate ones…and treatments…that work……get with the program here CDC..IDSA…NIH…FDA…ohh..that’s right somehow you are making money off the suffering and dying…how does that work when Millions can’t work to pay taxes? How’s that work when EVERYONE become infected?
- March 1, 2016 at 4:00 pm
People have suspected this for decades, but no studies were done…interesting to watch science finally to start to catch up with issues being discussed 20 years ago or more….
- May 1, 2016 at 2:28 pm
Anyone who thinks the CDC is on the side of the public needs to wake up! They are controlled by governmental entities you don’t want to know about. They welcome the fact that this disease is serum delivered and you can bet they are tweaking it. Do you really believe Aids started with zoological cross transmission. You all need to study morgellons syndrome. Its’ real. Our lab has seen components of this strange malady that would scare Frankenstien. Planet earth.Too many people , not enough resources. I do not wear a tin foil hat and my degrees’ are not mail order. Study and seek alternative treatments as antibiotics will not touch the root issues. My heart goes out to those suffering. J.
- May 17, 2016 at 12:18 pm
Right on Jeff you hit the nail on the head
- September 5, 2016 at 6:48 pm
Soon after I was bit by a tick last June I started having severe joint & muscle aches along with toothaches. I started on a tablespoon of organic liquefied honey (Neems that had medical properties in it) with a 1/2 tsp of cinnamon first thing every morning for at least 70 days & my symptoms disappeared. The few days I skipped, the symptoms returned immediately. I never took any medication before, during, or after. And to boost my immune system I took Moringa Organic leaf powder for 1- 2 months. I stopped that as well.
- October 9, 2016 at 3:40 pm
Hey guys I wanted to add another dimension to the conversation about the sexual transmission. My friend told me that she got her Lyme from her mother’s vaginal canal at birth. She had a grand-mal seizure at around 1 years old and then it just got worse and worse. Both her and her mother went years without getting a Lyme diagnosis and suffering from all sorts of weird conditions. Finally a Lyme specialist told them what he suspects happened with the birth transfer of Lyme. So sad to unknowingly pass it on to your child without knowing.
- November 2, 2016 at 8:42 am
What I’m pretty mad about is, why don’t they require all Physicians to follow the ILADS treatment guidelines and recognize Lyme ,Chronic Lyme, all the co-infections and opportunistic infections, find better testing for more accurate results, better treatment, update the 10 year old CDC guidelines, Lyme Disease would be treated promptly and effectively, so no concern it “may” be a STD….so why don’t they take care of the problem not create another and freak everyone out. Then the article is inconclusive it’s speculation and of course a bit of media sensationalization, as they state the secretions tested positive, yet that’s not proof of sexual transmission IMO, I feel the vast amount of the population is infected with Lyme, just not symptomatic, or when they do become symptomatic, it goes undiagnosed or miss diagnosed so they never even they know they every. Like many other pathogens we are infected with often unknowingly: EBV (Over 95% of the population has antibodies yet latent, 67% of the population – are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 and over 95 percent of people are infected by the varicella zoster virus (Shingles), during their lifetime, I hope that puts it in perspective a bit. Also, it has been known to be found in families, friends, because they socialize together, camping, hiking, outdoor activities, even if they are do not require physical exertion (watching a child play soccer or baseball). I have a friend who has repeatedly found ticks in her home, her husband is a hunter, she is not, has never been outdoorsy, but has been bitten twice, it seem from doing laundry and ticks have taken a ride in on his hunting clothes. It is known to be transmitted to unborn children in utero, in the womb, (Gestational Lyme) yet, I’ve not heard of it being transmitted just from the birth canal, itself.
- February 15, 2017 at 6:17 am
I wonder if this study will make insurance companies start to provide coverage. Also, is it possible for the Lyme’s to just be present in the vaginal canal and not be active within the rest of the body?
- May 12, 2017 at 6:32 pm
As a heterosexual married couple, my husband has tested positive for lymes disease and spotted mountain tick fever believe it ir not they are different and was told one can lay dormant for a while while the other shows up quicker. However my question is ??? Can I get the disease through sex?
- June 6, 2017 at 7:16 pm
That study doesn’t seem to be serious at all! The title tend to suggest that they find out it was sexually transmitable as it doesn’t at all. At all! It seem to suggest the opposite in fact. It’s written «Furthermore, one of the heterosexual couples with Lyme disease showed identical strains of the Lyme spirochete in their genital secretions». Does it mean all the other couple had different strains of bacteria??? If it’s the case then, it would rather prove that it was transmited by different tick bites and not sexually!!! Not serious at all! How stupid do they think we are?
- November 11, 2017 at 2:12 pm
This is not a new theory at all, my aunt suffered from lyme disease and we were told this when she was at her worse around 2002.
- April 12, 2018 at 7:22 am
Yes i have had lime disease for 5 6 years sufering but was only properly diognosed last year and i kept telling my s/o to be checked but hasnt yet although has experienced all symtoms i noticed !
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