People with persistent symptoms related to Lyme disease are unlikely to find relief from long term antibiotic treatment.
New research has found that prolonged antibiotic therapy is proving infective against Lyme disease and the symptoms of the chronic disease continue or won’t ease despite the long term use of antibiotics.
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Lyme disease is an infectious disease which is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. The common symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic bulls-eye like rash. Antibiotic treatment is believed to be the best way to ward off Lyme disease. But some people continue to complain about the symptoms even after the Lyme bacteria appears to be gone and tests also show no signs of it.
In such cases, physicians recommend patients to extend taking antibiotics. But people with persistent symptoms are unlikely to find relief even from this long term therapy.
“Most patients with Lyme disease are cured after initial antibiotic therapy. But up to 20% of patients report persistent symptoms, such as muscular or joint pain, fatigue or concentration problems, despite initial antibiotic therapy,” said study researcher Dr. Bart-Jan Kullberg from Radboud University Medical Center in Netherland.
“Previous clinical trials have not shown that prolonged antibiotic treatment has beneficial effects in patients with persistent symptoms attributed to Lyme disease.”
Treating persistent symptoms of Lyme disease with long term antibiotic course has been labeled controversial and ineffective in many previous studies and a recent study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, also supports this theory.
The new study involved 280 patients from Europe who were previously diagnosed with Lyme disease and had persistent symptoms associated with disease such as severe headaches, stiffness and disturbed sleep.
During the first two weeks of clinical trial, all patients were given antibiotic Rocephin. Then, they were divided into three groups. One was given antibiotic Doryx for 12 weeks, second group was given a combination of the antibiotics clarithromycin and hydroxychloroquine and the third group was given a placebo.
At the end of the trial, participants were asked to fill a questionnaire regarding their fitness level, quality of life and well being. Researchers found no significant difference in the physical symptoms of the patients based on their self reported data.
“The patients reported no benefit of prolonged antibiotics on any of the scales compared to those who received placebo.” Kullberg said.
Lyme disease is a treatable disease and usually patients recover after short term antibiotic therapy. But when it comes to persistent symptoms, researchers are not sure why it happens to few of the people.
“We don’t really know what is the cause of this syndrome,” Kullberg said. “It could be an immune response to the prior infection, sensitization to the infection or genetic variation that makes them sensitive to prolonged symptoms after an infection. Bu the answer may not be found in prescribing a prolonged course of antibiotics.”
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Researchers are hoping that further studies will find out what’s causing these symptoms and may help come up with a better treatment approach.