Go-To Lyme Drugs Don’t Always Kill The Bug, At Least For Some While most patients are treated successfully with go-to antibiotics, some 10 to 20 percent remain sick.

By Mary Beth Pfeiffer

N early a generation of medical dogma on Lyme disease may be slowly unraveling as new test tube research shows that antibiotics long endorsed as curative do not kill what scientists call “persister” cells — and may even promote their growth.

The corkscrew Lyme spirochete, known as Borrelia burgdorferi, had been shown in previous research to hide beneath slimy shields called biofilms and shape-shift into “round bodies,” persisters that survive lethal drugs and may repopulate later. But emerging science implicates the antibiotics long used to treat the tick-borne illness, including the predominant doxycycline, as a potential key to persistent infection: While killing most pathogens, the antibiotics commonly prescribed for Lyme disease have been shown in test tubes to leave behind a smattering of remarkably resilient Lyme bacteria. As the bacteria’s growth slows under antibiotic assault, these persister cells increase, sometimes dramatically, three research groups found, providing a plausible explanation for a problem that has bedeviled Lyme disease care.

While most patients are treated successfully with go-to antibiotics, some 10 to 20 percent remain sick.

With an estimated 300,000 U.S. Lyme cases annually, that means 30,000 to 60,000 people every year develop lingering neurological, arthritic or other symptoms, some for months or years. Many are told their symptoms are “subjective,” even psychological, and aren’t tied to Lyme disease…… Join or login below to continue reading.

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