‘Doctor says you are cured, but you still feel the pain.’

Thirty-one percent of Lyme disease patients presenting with an erythema migrans rash remained in severe pain after three weeks of treatment with doxycycline, according to a 2017 report published by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in the journal Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology. [1]


by Daniel J. Cameron, MD MPH

In an article entitled “Doctor Says You Are Cured, But You Still Feel the Pain. Borrelia DNA Persistence in Lyme Disease,” Cervantes, from Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, addresses the persistence of pain as the result of Lyme disease.

Studies indicate that Borrelia DNA can persist in animals and humans after antibiotic treatment. Cervantes cites evidence of persistent DNA found in the joint fluid of arthritis patients after therapy, in endocardial biopsy specimens from patients with dilated cardiomyopathy, and in the urine of antibiotic-treated patients, up to a year after treatment. [2]

Bb-DNA can persist for long periods of time in some individuals, even after antibiotic therapy, says author of new study. Click To Tweet

Furthermore, new evidence suggests that persistent bacterial DNA can lead to ongoing symptoms. An antimicrobial peptide (AMP) activates TLR9, an innate immune receptor that leads to type-I interferon production. That production would translate into symptoms consistent with those typically described by patients suffering from post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS) and explain how illness can persist even in the absence of an active bacterial infection, according to Cervantes. [2]

Bb-DNA can persist for long periods of time in some individuals, even after antibiotic therapy, says the author of a new study.

Cervantes encourages attention to the use of DNA-binding AMPs to limit chronic manifestations of Lyme disease. AMPs may also “increase the ability of human macrophages to efficiently remove extracellular spirochetal DNA,” Cervantes says.

In the same article, Cervantes raises an unresolved question: “Where is Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) hiding from the immune system? Bb is an elastic organism, able to modify its morphology to ‘swim’ in between the fibrous tracts of cartilaginous tissue.”

“Cartilage is a tissue that lacks vasculature, providing the perfect sanctuary for Bb to escape from immune cells present in the bloodstream. Bb can then remain ‘hidden’ in the extracellular matrix,” he suggests.

Therein lies the $64,000 question: Can we be sure persistent DNA does not represent persistent infection?



  1. Bechtold KT, Rebman AW, Crowder LA, Johnson-Greene D, Aucott JN. Standardized Symptom Measurement of Individuals with Early Lyme Disease Over Time. Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2017;32(2):129-141.
  2. Cervantes J. Doctor says you are cured, but you still feel the pain. Borrelia DNA persistence in Lyme disease. Microbes Infect. 2017.

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Michele L Mullis
Michele L Mullis
2 years ago

I was diagnosed with lyme six weeks ago, I’m on my second round of amoxicillin, two weeks each round, I did have bullseye rash, I’m allergic to doxicyclene so they amped up the amoxicillin, 82 500mg pills in two weeks, twice. And now I almost can’t walk. Lancaster orthopedic group pulled two and a half tubes of fluid off my right knee Last week and my left foot is swelled up on the bottom. Terrible calf pain in both legs. Headache and dizziness, glands in head and neck and chest completely swelled up, was ct scanned with contrast so they saw that, am I going to live? My dr said I’ve been treated. Help!

Cortney Sharpe
Cortney Sharpe
2 years ago

My daughter will be 16 in a few days, she has been diagnosed twice with lyme. The first time being around the age of 13 and the second time was at the age of 15. Her doctor is telling me the symptoms she is having are not from her history of lyme. About a year and a half ago she was severely depressed, to the point of feeling suicidal. I put her in counseling and when that wasn’t helping we put her on a low dose of antidepressants and is doing better but she is still depressed because of how she feels, she is suffering with terrible body aches, mostly muscular but she does have arthritis too. She has terrible night sweats and sometimes chills. She also gets stabbing pains in her lower back, she’s getting bad headaches and sometimes dull ones. Her school work has gone way down, all she wants to do is sleep. Her menstrual cycle is all messed up too. I need some help so my daughter can feel somewhat normal. She just keeps asking me, “why can’t I be normal mom”

Cindy Curtis
Cindy Curtis
3 years ago

I have chronic Lyme, the whole common story, symptoms, a bite but 2 negative tests. Nine years later finally got a positive result, was given three weeks of antibiotic and was told I was better in spite of worsening symptoms. I realize I will never be well. It’s so sad.

Nadine Riter
Nadine Riter
5 years ago

Dr. Cameron, I’m so glad that my uncle told me about you and your website.
I live in Clinton Ct, I had an awful experience with Lyme disease in 1989 a very long story. Basically most of the doctors that I saw were still pretty clueless and it took almost a year to figure out what it actually was. By then one Doc called it acute Lyme disease. They had set up a Lyme disease clinic at the UCONN health center and that’s where I ended up going, I saw numerous infectious disease doctors and neurologists. I’m still trying to find out if all the symptoms I still suffer from are the residual effects of the disease or just normal aging (aches & pains)ect… I want to know if there are any blood tests that I can have after all these years that will show any new results or diagnoses.
Lyme never showed in any of my blood tests but it did show up in my spinal fluid. Thank you

1 year ago
Reply to  Nadine Riter

There is really trouble about the find an ideal tests for diagnosing chronic/prolonged Lyme infections. ELİSPOT or LTT BORRELİA tests May be an alternative tests and DARK FİELD MİCROSCOPY For Borrelia May be a very good option to detect spirochetal and cystic forms of Borrelia bacterias in blood ( and in CSF).

David R Thomas - Lyme Advocate

Thank you Dr. Cameron for that thought. My experience tells me that persistance lives and damage often stays along years of recovery.