Lyme Disease Co-Infections
According to a 2017 report conducted by Lymedisease.org surveying 3,000 chronic Lyme disease patients over half of them had laboratory confirmed co-infections.
In fact, 30% reported two or more co-infections. These results, which have undoubtedly grown even higher since 2017 with the universal growth of Lyme disease each year, are troublesome.
Let’s take a look at why these co-infections are so prevalent, what some of these co-infections are, and the challenges that these co-infections pose.
Why Are Co-Infections So Prevalent?
One reason why co-infections from tick bites are so prevalent is because of what happens when a tick bites a host. According to an article in the Atlantic “Ticks use saliva to manipulate the body of their hosts so their bites stay painless, itch-less, and as unobtrusive as a bug swelling with blood can be.
Scientists have since cataloged more than 3,500 proteins from the saliva of various tick species.” Along with these proteins also come a flow of whatever bacteria and pathogens the tick happens to be infected with. (Read more about what happens when a tick bites a host here.)
It is very common for a tick to be carrying several different pathogens themselves. A Lymedisease.org study conducted in France found that ticks sampled carried at least one microorganism that can affect the transmission of disease, and 45% were carrying up to five different pathogens.
What Are Some of These Co-Infections?
According to LymeDisease.org, the most common Lyme disease co-infections are reported in the following order from most to least common:
- Babesia: A parasite spread by ticks that causes a disease similar to malaria
- Bartonella: The bacteria that causes Cat Scratch Disease (also called cat scratch fever)
- Ehrlichia: A group of at least three sub-species that cause disease (Ehrlichiosis) in the U.S.
- Rickettsia rickettsii: The bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, the deadliest tick-borne disease in the world
- Anaplasma: A bacteria causing Anaplasmosis, with a sub-species in the U.S. and another in China
Additionally to these infections, ticks are also known to cause:
- Colorado tick fever
- Tick borne relapsing fever
- Q fever
- Powassan viral encephalitis
- Tick paralysis
- Heartland virus
- 364D rickettsiosis
- Bourbon virus
Most recently, bites from a lone star tick or a black legged tick has been linked to alpha-gal syndrome which is a potentially life threatening sensitivity to red meat.
The list above does not include infections that have been noted as occurring outside of the US. Here are a few of the tick borne illnesses that occur outside of the US:
What Challenges Do These Co-Infections Pose?
According to the NIH, “Co-infection by some or all of these other microbes may make it more difficult to diagnose Lyme disease. Being infected by more than one microbe might also affect how the immune system responds to B. burgdorferi. NIAID-supported studies of mice found that co-infection with human granulocytic ehrlichiosis—which is now known as anaplasmosis—results in more severe Lyme disease.
Another study showed that when mice were co-infected with Babesia microti and B. burgdorferi, the presence of Babesia also enhanced the severity of Lyme disease, while the presence of B. burgdorferi appeared to limit the effects of Babesia.”
Additionally, treatments for these co-infections differ from what is commonly prescribed for Lyme disease. For example, a course of Doxycycline may be effective for Lyme disease and the co-infection Ehrlichiosis but is not effective in treating Babesiosis. Many co-infections are not commonly tested for and do not receive much funding.
Lymedisease.org reports “of the nearly 50,000 cases of VBDs reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2014, 94% were tick-borne, with most of those being Lyme disease. Only 6% of VBDs were from mosquitoes. Yet, Lyme receives only a fraction of the research funding given to Zika and West Nile virus.”
Scientists are still discovering new tick borne infections every year. More research is needed to study both ticks and patients that are suffering from chronic Lyme disease and tick borne illnesses because, undoubtedly, many may be infected with co-infections and are unaware.
The prevalence of co-infections make it even more important for a Lyme disease patient to be supported by a Lyme literate team of practitioners using a functional medicine approach. If you would like support and aid to overcome your Lyme disease and tick borne illness, contact Lymesupport.com.
This article was written by Lyme Support. We know living with Lyme disease is complicated and there is never one simple answer. 1-on-1 guidance and practical, cutting edge solutions make the healing journey so much easier. If you are ready to make health, happiness, and hope your new normal, reach out to us! We offer personalized health coaching using a functional medicine approach.
Lyme Support can also refer you to hospitals in Germany and Mexico offering advanced holistic Lyme protocols. For anyone struggling with tick borne illnesses, a hospital that treats the body as a whole can elevate you to a new level of normal. If you’d like more information about these specialized hospitals, we can help schedule you in and provide education on treatments.
You can reach us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or book a breakthrough call here – https://calendly.com/christinelymesupport/breakthrough if you are ready to get clear on the next steps on your path to healing.
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