Lyme disease no longer fits the ‘one microbe, one disease Germ Theory’

lab, microscope, testing

Doctors typically use the one microbe, one disease Germ Theory when trying to identify diseases in their patients. Lyme disease initially fit this theory after Dr. Willy Burgdorfer discovered that a spirochete (later named Borrelia burgdorferi) was the bacterial pathogen causing Lyme disease.

But with the emergence of different species of spirochetes and tick-borne co-infections, the one microbe, one disease Germ Theory has fallen apart. The growing number of concurrent tick-borne infections, such as Lyme disease and Babesia, demonstrates the involvement and concern of multiple microbes. One study found that an infection with both Lyme disease and Babesia increased the severity and duration of illness. [1]

Researchers in Finland described the frequency of combinations of pathogens in patients with Lyme disease.

They compared the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acute cases (n = 43); CDC late cases (n = 43); CDC negative cases (n = 46); post-treatment Lyme disease Syndrome [PTLDS (n = 31)]; immunocompromised (n = 61); and unspecific (n = 31) to healthy controls (n = 177).

The researchers looked at the immune response to a number of pathogens. Patients were tested for their “immunoglobulin M (IgM) and G (IgG) responses against 20 microbes associated with TBDs [tick-borne diseases],” writes Garg from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. [2]

[bctt tweet=”Study finds 65% of patients with tick-borne illness have immune response to multiple microbes. ” username=”DrDanielCameron”]

Microbes included: Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia afzelii, Borrelia garinii, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto persistent form, Borrelia afzelii persistent form, Borrelia garinii persistent form, Babesia microti, Bartonella henselae, Brucella abortus, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Rickettsia akari, Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV), Chlamydia pneumoniae, Chlamydia trachomatis, Coxsackievirus A16 (CVA16), Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Mycoplasma fermentans, and Human parvovirus B19 (HB19V).

The researchers found numerous immune responses to these microbes. In fact, 65% of patients with a tick-borne disease produced immune responses to multiple organisms.

“Our findings recognize that microbial infections in patients suffering from [tick-borne diseases] do not follow the one microbe, one disease Germ Theory as 65% of the TBD patients produce immune responses to various microbes,” the authors write.

They suggest, “A paradigm shift is required in current healthcare policies to diagnose [tick-borne diseases] so that patients can get tested and treated even for opportunistic infections.”

The importance of each microbe is unclear. The role of individual pathogens needs to be examined in future studies.

  1. Krause PJ, Telford SR, 3rd, Spielman A, et al. Concurrent Lyme disease and babesiosis. Evidence for increased severity and duration of illness. Jama. 1996;275(21):1657-1660.
  2. Garg K, Merilainen L, Franz O, et al. Evaluating polymicrobial immune responses in patients suffering from tick-borne diseases. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):15932.

8 Replies to "Lyme disease no longer fits the ‘one microbe, one disease Germ Theory’"

  • Noel
    12/28/2018 (2:10 pm)

    June 9 1992, I found live tick on me, 3 days, post military camp at Fort Leonardwood MO. Blood test June 11. A comparison blood drawn July 10.Phone call Received July 17. 1992. Confirmation of present Borrelia burgdorferi. I Was not tolerant of prescribed treatment, oral azithromycin started on July 17. Symptoms worsened: severe fatigue, major shooting skeletal pain, heart affected and temporary intermittent paralysis. Infectious disease Dr examined me, drew blood for numerous tests. All negative. Due to my deteriorating physical condition at 22 yrs old, knowing I had been bitten by a tick, he prescribed 14 days same time daily, IV antibiotics cephalexin, starting on Aug 18, 92. He said I was cured. Symptoms reoccure in Oct. I was told I was cured. Symptoms reoccurring saw neurological specialist June 93. Test was normal..Diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Symptoms have been and are always present. I have been diagnosed with PTSD from the experience at 22 yrs old. Within the last 4 years my short term memory has worsened. I can’t find words or peoples names who I’ve known for years. Is there anything out there? Is there research i could benefit from? Pharmaceutical remedies have been a bandage. Cannabis oil eases the sparatic intermittent pains temporarily. Looking for help.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      01/01/2019 (1:09 pm)

      You are not alone. A diagnosis of “PTLDS” is considered a syndrome after Lyme disease. I have opposed the term as it implies we have a test to rule out a persistent infection. You are only 22. You should keep working on finding an answer.

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  • Behzad
    12/22/2018 (4:30 pm)

    The best treatment would be to choose the treatment protocol that kills most of them regardless of their class or name.

  • Susan
    12/21/2018 (11:03 pm)

    I was recently diagnosed with EBV, I had mono at age 16, I also have been bitten 5-6 times by Lyme ticks and never treated, I am weak, drastically fatigued, short of breath, chest wall aches, have episodes of vertigo, no one had been able to diagnose me with ANYTHING until 6 weeks ago, rest and drink fluids is all I was told, I’m growing weak and very depressed, I think I have Lyme and probably for at lest a few years, the tests here in Maine say negative so the doctors do not take extra precautions, my family thinks I have Lyme, I’m not better, I’m still lame, tired, he aches, poor appetite, headaches frequently if I have EBV how long does this ladt and why do I still feel sick ?

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      12/22/2018 (11:59 pm)

      I would encourage you to include a doctor with experience treating Lyme disease rather than stop at EBV.

  • Barbara Briguglio
    12/20/2018 (11:35 pm)

    This actually makes the most sense in that we now know how many various diseases are transmitted by one tick. But, how do you decide which one to treat first if you have 6 different infections? Where do you start and what order?

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