Caused by a form of bacteria (the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi) infecting humans by tick bites – Lyme Disease – typically begins with a bull’s-eye skin rash, accompanied by fever, muscle aches, or other flu-like symptoms.
Sound scary. BUT, if diagnosed early, Lyme can be treated successfully within a month with either oral or intravenous antibiotics.
What does arthritis have to do with Lyme disease you might ask?
Because if Lyme patients do not receive antibiotic therapy early in the illness, they will develop intermittent or persistent arthritis — particularly affecting the knees.
Nearly 60 percent of patients who do not receive antibiotic therapy early in the illness develop intermittent or persistent arthritis, particularly affecting the knees.
Moreover, a small percentage of Lyme patients who do receive antibiotic therapy suffer from persistent arthritis for months or even several years after 2-3 months of oral and intravenous antibiotic therapy.
This confounding condition has been termed antibiotic-refractory, or slowly resolving, Lyme arthritis.
Therefore to find out more clues in to the survival of spirochetes following antibiotic therapy, researchers at the Center for Immunology and Inflammatory Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the National Center for Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, collaborated in order to study antibody responses to Borrelia burgdorferi in patients with antibiotic-refractory or antibiotic-responsive Lyme arthritis.
The said study’s findings – presented in the December 2007 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism – indicate that joint inflammation persists in patients with antibiotic-refractory Lyme arthritis after the disease-spreading spirochetes have been killed.
As observed by Dr. Allen C. Steere, the senior author of the study:
“In Lyme disease, there is a great need for a test that could be used in clinical practice as a marker for spirochetal eradication. Yet, ridding the body of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria and its surface antigens does not always bring relief from arthritis.
Increasing antibody titers in patients usually suggested the presence of live spirochetes, whereas declining titers suggested that they had been killed.
Thus, patients with Lyme arthritis who have a sustained, gradual decline in antibody reactivity probably have the nearly complete or total eradication of spirochetes from the joint as a result of antibiotic therapy, even if joint inflammation persists after the period of infection.”
Find more details from EurekAlert.