Dr. Daniel Cameron: Inside Lyme Podcast
What do Ebola, COVID-19, and Lyme disease have in common?
Welcome to another Inside Lyme Podcast. I am your host Dr. Daniel Cameron. In this episode, I will be discussing a topic on the what Ebola, COVID-19 and Lyme disease have in common was recently featured in Vox Magazine by author Julia Belluz.1 The article, “Long COVID isn’t as unique as we thought” reviews some commonalities between patients with post-COVID-19 symptoms and those with other chronic illnesses.
As Belluz’s article demonstrates, the long-term complications from Lyme disease, COVID-19, and Lyme disease may not be so unique, given that “doctors have noticed long-term illnesses after an infection since at least 1889.” The article describes the case of Dr. Craig Spencer, who experienced long-term symptoms after contracting Ebola in late 2014 while working with Doctors without Borders.
Lasting effects of Ebola and other infections
Dr. Spencer explains, “Though the physical effects eventually faded, cognitive complications persist to this day.” These symptoms are “a subtle but noticeable difference in concentration and ability to form new memories.” He also has muscle and joint pain, along with fatigue.
Other illnesses, including Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome and COVID-19, have been associated with the onset of long-term complications. COVID-19 “long-haulers” have reported persistent symptoms following their acute illness, while a newly described condition called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) has been reported in children weeks following a COVID-19 viral infection.
“Post-viral syndrome and ME/CFS also parallel other contested and little-understood chronic disorders, including chronic Lyme disease, which is thought to occur after infection with the tick-borne Borrelia bacterium,” writes Belluz.1
Furthermore, “Johns Hopkins’s Megan Hosey opened the long-haul umbrella even wider, beyond viruses and bacteria, to illnesses like cancer, multiple sclerosis, Type 1 and 2 diabetes, and lupus,” explains Belluz.
COVID-19 opens eyes of medical community
The focus on COVID-19 and its long-term impact on patients has, at the very least, opened up discussions on whether other infections may also trigger chronic symptoms.
According to findings from a recent META analysis, “The symptoms observed in post-COVID-19 patients, resemble in part the chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which includes the presence of severe incapacitating fatigue, pain, neurocognitive disability, compromised sleep, symptoms suggestive of autonomic dysfunction, and worsening of global symptoms following minor increases in physical and/or cognitive activity.” 2
Other studies have reported Lyme disease patients with persistent symptoms similar to those observed in post-COVID-19 patients.3, 4
“If long COVID changes anything, it has to be this knee-jerk reaction in medicine to discount and give up on patients with symptoms that have no identifiable biological basis,” writes Belluz.
She adds, “The experience is so pervasive that researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota gave it a name: “undercared-for chronic suffering.”
Possible causes of long-term symptoms
The exact cause for ongoing symptoms in Ebola, COVID-19 and Lyme disease are still unknown. But scientists have several hypotheses.
Researchers from Yale suggest, “While the intact virus may have left the body, “there may be RNA and protein from the virus that’s lingering and continuing to stimulate the immune system.”
Other scientist believe long-COVID patients have developed an autoimmune disorder. “The virus interrupts normal immune function, causing it to misfire, so that the molecules that normally target foreign invaders — like viruses — turn on the body itself.”
Dr. Spencer’s experience has “led him to join the growing chorus of health professionals, patient advocates, and researchers who argue we need to reframe how we think about coronavirus long-haulers.”
Ultimately, the struggles COVID long-haulers have endured will help raise awareness about the impact infections can have on igniting persistent symptoms in patients with various illnesses.
The following questions are addressed in this podcast episode:
- Are post-infectious symptoms a new concept?
- What are the chronic manifestations Dr. Spencer experienced from Ebola which you have seen in your Lyme disease patients?
- How have the conversations differed between acute manifestations of Ebola, COVID-19 and LD?
- What do we know about Long hauler COVID-19?
- What are the chronic manifestations of long hauler COVID-19 patients which you have seen in your Lyme disease patients?
- What other illnesses could lead to similar chronic manifestations?
- What might cause these chronic manifestations?
- Is any testing available for persistent symptoms?
- What makes chronic manifestations for these conditions so frustrating for patients and doctors?
- Thanks for listening to another Inside Lyme Podcast. You can read more about these cases in my show notes and on my website @DanielCameronMD.com. As always, it is your likes, comments, reviews, and shares that help spread the word about Lyme disease. Until next time on Inside Lyme.
Please remember that the advice given is general and not intended as specific advice as to any particular patient. If you require specific advice, then please seek that advice from an experienced professional.
Inside Lyme Podcast Series
This Inside Lyme case series will be discussed on my Facebook and made available on podcast and YouTube. As always, it is your likes, comments, and shares that help spread the word about this series and our work. If you can, please leave a review on iTunes or wherever else you get your podcasts.
- Long Covid isn’t as unique as we thought by Julia Belluz in Vox. https://www.vox.com/22298751/long-term-side-effects-covid-19-hauler-symptoms. Last accessed 4/10/21.
- Lopez-Leon S, Wegman-Ostrosky T, Perelman C, et al. More than 50 Long-term effects of COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis. medRxiv. Jan 30 2021;doi:10.1101/2021.01.27.21250617
- Logigian EL, Kaplan RF, Steere AC. Chronic neurologic manifestations of Lyme disease. N Engl J Med. Nov 22 1990;323(21):1438-44. doi:10.1056/NEJM199011223232102
- Cameron DJ, Johnson LB, Maloney EL. Evidence assessments and guideline recommendations in Lyme disease: the clinical management of known tick bites, erythema migrans rashes and persistent disease. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. Sep 2014;12(9):1103-35. doi:10.1586/14787210.2014.940900