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Setting the Record Straight on Lyme: The CDC’s Latest Response to Long Term Antibiotics and Lyme Testing Methods

The Martha’s Vineyard Times released a story last week after the CDC’s new report on the treatment and very existence of chronic Lyme Disease came out, highlighting the controversy over chronic Lyme disease, how to test for it, and how to treat it. The CDC’s report studies five patients that had been treated with long-term antibiotics for chronic Lyme disease and discusses the complications that came with this treatment.

These patients were treated with intravenous antibiotics, administered via a catheter. The CDC believes this type of treatment to be dangerous because it has been a constant source of infection for many. A spokesperson for the CDC told the MV Times, “CDC has periodically heard from state health departments and clinicians about patients who have acquired serious bacterial infections during treatments for what is sometimes referred to as chronic Lyme disease. We have heard of many cases, but limited the report to five examples.” Within these five examples, the complications included septic shock, Clostridium difficile colitis, osteodiscitis, abscess, and two deaths.


There are two tests used to diagnose Lyme disease by detecting the bacteria that causes it (Borrelia burgdorferi) in the bloodstream. First is the ELISA and then the Western blot test which can confirm the results of the ELISA. Those who believe chronic Lyme exists, which the CDC does not, claim that the tests are inaccurate and that patients can have the disabling symptoms even when testing negative for the bacteria. The CDC reminds us that accurate testing for this, as with other infectious diseases, is dependent on the accurate timing of the tests. A test for the bacteria that causes Lyme will not be positive until 4-6 weeks after infection because it takes that long for antibodies to develop. The tests actually appear to become more sensitive the longer the bacteria is present making them more effective as time goes on, not less.


While the CDC sees no real scientific validity to chronic Lyme disease it does state that approximately 10 percent of those infected can have long-term effects that include muscle and joint aches and pains, fevers, fatigue, and clouded thinking. They call it PTLDS, Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome. The difference between PTLDS diagnosis and those diagnosed with chronic Lyme is again the recognition of the bacteria that causes it, Borrelia burgdorferi in their system. PTLDS can last for months, but patients almost always get better with time. There is no sign that the use of prolonged antibiotics gets any faster results in tests run against placebos.

Professor of infectious disease at Tufts University and expert on tick-borne illness, Sam Telford, believes this report from the CDC confirms his beliefs that diagnosis of chronic Lyme without the presence of bacteria should be considered suspect and that ignoring the facts of 30 years of validated testing can be dangerous. Along with the CDC, he believes that a patient’s belief that they suffer from chronic Lyme without proper proof will keep them from being diagnosed for what could actually be causing their continuing symptoms keeping them from receiving the treatment they need. Misdiagnosis and misguided treatment can be dangerous and even fatal, as the CDC’s report shows.

The MV Times article in its entirety is a lot to take in, but what we want to focus on are the basics: science, healthy decisions, and informed choices. At Mosquito Squad of Franklin & Framingham, we continue to follow the news and latest from the CDC so that we can report to you. We also want to help with what we do best when it comes to tick-borne illnesses like Lyme, and that’s prevention. Call us today about our tick control treatments and let us take the worry out of keeping your yard free of mosquitoes and ticks.