Chronic illness from Lyme disease is rare, say UK researchers

In a briefing on October 9th, 2019 in the UK, researchers dismissed the seriousness and prevalence of illness due to Lyme disease. Although they acknowledged that some patients exhibit persistent, chronic Lyme disease symptoms, the numbers, they say, are small.  “Of these [Lyme disease] patients, fewer than one in 20 experience residual symptoms,” writes Harvey in the British Medical Journal.¹

The people who did seem to suffer from chronic symptoms were those with neurologic problems.  “Those that have confirmed neurological Lyme disease – a late complication present in about one in 10 cases – have a higher rate of long term subjective symptoms, such as fatigue and poor concentration,” writes Harvey.

Matthew Dryden, consultant microbiologist for Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust dismissed the number of cases.  Harvey argues that “In most cases, patients with true Lyme do not develop chronic symptoms.”  (He did not define “true Lyme.”)

UK researchers dismiss existence of chronic Lyme disease. Click To Tweet

Sarah Logan, a consultant in the tropical diseases unit at University College London Hospital, addressed the risk in treating Lyme disease, as she described a patient “who contracted an infection from a long term intravenous line that had been fitted abroad to provide them with antibiotics [for Lyme disease].”

Meanwhile, “Other patients have contracted Clostridium difficile and drug resistant infections from long term antibiotic therapy,” she writes.

The attendees failed to address the risk of not treating a Lyme disease patient, nor did they acknowledge the limited treatment options available in the UK. They did, however, express concern that patients were seeking treatment outside of their country.

Regardless of their position on chronic Lyme disease, ticks remain a very real concern in England. As Tim Brooks, clinical services director at Public Health England’s rare and imported pathogens laboratory, points out, “You’re just as likely to contract Lyme disease in your back garden as you are in the countryside.”

“There are around 1,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales annually, with an estimated 2,000 more cases successfully treated in primary care without positive blood tests,” writes Harvey.

Editor’s note: I feel it’s important to be informed of the UK researchers’ opinions even if I do not agree with their positions.  It is not a surprise that their patients have had to leave the UK to seek treatment for Lyme disease.

References:
  1. Harvey A. Lyme disease: chronic illness is rare, say experts. BMJ. 2019 Oct 10;367:l5975. doi: 10.1136/bmj.l5975.
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6 Replies to "Chronic illness from Lyme disease is rare, say UK researchers"

  • Calum Grant
    02/01/2020 (1:56 pm)
    Reply

    And how exactly would they know? I think it’s just guesswork on their part, as they never follow patients up and there is never any meaningful gathering of statistics on these things. Meanwhile, there are over 11000 members of the Lyme Disease UK Facebook group. When I first got Lyme disease in 2016 there were 6000 members this group.

  • Peter Kemp
    02/01/2020 (11:21 am)
    Reply

    In the USA where Lyme disease has been notifiable since 1991, and where 14 states have yearly incidence (2018 figures) ranging from 7.3 to 63 times higher than England and Wales, the CDC nevertheless admit that it is probable that the true incidence is 10 to 12 times higher than the number of reported cases. This is in a country where many of the population and doctors are alert to the risks, signs and symptoms of the infection.

    But in England and Wales, where most doctors have never knowingly seen a case and probably would not know how to recognize most cases, Public Health England (PHE) claim that only half or at most two-thirds of cases go unreported.

    That means that PHE claim to detect cases up to 4 times more efficiently than the USA.
    Hurrah!

    https://www.facebook.com/download/preview/2207622942892196/

  • Michael /tomlinson
    02/01/2020 (7:09 am)
    Reply

    This sounds like rubbish, given the hundreds of sufferers I’ve met personally. Typical.
    This disease is hell. (25+ yrs)

    • karen
      02/07/2020 (12:47 pm)
      Reply

      totally agree as a Lyme Recipient I can tell you the U.S has a greater number of Lyme cases annually, that are chronic, and thanks to the big pharma, we’ll never have a cure 🙁

  • mlou
    01/31/2020 (11:25 pm)
    Reply

    I’ve got neurolyme. I probably had Lyme for well over a decade before treating it. Treated Lyme plus Bartonella & babesia with antibiotics 5 yrs ago and I’m still making progress in returning to a “normal” lifestyle where activity won’t create body pain, fatigue & sever headaches. My neuro-/phsych testing showed I’m in the 5-9% for my age in certain categories. Recovery is very slow & yes, every lab test I did back in 2015 had me CDC positive & I’ve had no other health issues so this all has to be due to the Lyme(+). Even the small fiber Neuropathy & occipital headaches are just part of my recovery efforts.

  • Donna Falcone
    01/31/2020 (7:56 am)
    Reply

    Even at 1 in 20…. that’s 5%…. 5% of 1000 people is 50 people! That’s lo-balling it too. It makes me angry that so many use Statistically “low” numbers to justify willful ignorance and failure to perform vital research on diagnosis and treatment.


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