Lyme-Aid Disease Information For Scientists and Medical Professionals

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne infection in the United States, and can cause severe clinical manifestations in both humans and pets. The bacterium that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, is spread through the bite of infected ticks. Lyme disease cases have been reported from all 50 states, with endemic areas in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, north-central United States, and increasingly, the Pacific coast.1 There is currently no vaccine for humans on the market, so prevention is key.

Signs and Symptoms

Early localized Lyme disease can cause symptoms similar to the flu, and can include2:
  • "Bull's-eye" rash
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Stiff neck
  • Body-wide itching
  • Malaise
  • If left untreated, Lyme disease can spread to the brain, heart and joints, symptoms can be severe and persist for months or years after initial infection. Symptoms may include.1,2

  • Paralysis of the face muscles
  • Pain or swelling in the joints
  • Heart palpitations
  • Abnormal muscle movement
  • Muscle weakness
  • Speech problems
  • Memory disorders
  • Nerve damage
  • Sleep disorders
  • 60% of patients have bouts of arthritis and up to 5% of untreated patients may develop chronic neurological problems.1

    Approximately 10-20% of patients, especially those who are diagnosed too late, have persistent or recurring symptoms, even with proper antibiotic treatment.3 Often times, these patients are treated with antibiotics for prolonged periods; however this can have serious adverse effects, including substantial morbidity and even death.4 Prompt treatment is essential to avoiding serious complications associated with Lyme disease.


    Typically, Lyme disease is treated with doxycycline.1 Doxycycline is associated with some common and severe side effects and patients with neurological and cardiac symptoms may require IV antibiotics.1,2 Common side effects include: diarrhea, upset stomach, and sore mouth.2 In addition, doxycycline is not recommended to treat children, pregnant or breast feeding women, or women taking oral contraceptives.2 Prolonged treatment with doxycycline has been linked to significant morbidity and even death.5


    1. Lyme Disease. CDC. Last updated July 26, 2012. Page viewed August 9, 2012.
    2. Lyme Disease. PubMed Health. Last reviewed August 26, 2011. Page viewed August 9, 2012.
    3. Marques, A. Chronic Lyme disease: a review. Infect Dis Clin North Am 2008; 22:341-60.
    4. Klempne, M.S., Hu, L.T., Evans, J., et al. 2001. Two controlled trials of antibiotic treatment in patients with persistent symptoms and a history of Lyme disease. New England Journal of Medicine 345(2): 85-92.
    5. Patel, R., Grogg, K.L., Edwards, W.D., Wright, A.J., and Schwenk, N.M. 2000. Death from Inappropriate Therapy for Lyme Disease. Clinical Infectious Diseases 31(4): 1107-1109