Now that science has accepted Borrelia has “persister” forms of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, there is new support for finding a cure to the chronic form of Lyme disease.John Hopkins was the first to openly publish their work on chronic Lyme but did so with carefully worded language. Other studies have followed – in particular the most recent Stanford study which refers to chronic Lyme openly – and both studies focus on treatment with combinations of antibiotics.
Now Northeastern has also published, and joined the ranks of cutting-edge microbiology labs dedicated to finding a cure for chronic Lyme disease.
The head of Northeastern’s Lyme disease research team is University Distinguished Professor Kim Lewis, who says the following:
“If Lyme is caught early, patients generally recover quickly when treated with antibiotics, primarily doxycyline. However, 10 to 20 percent of patients go on to develop a debilitating chronic condition called Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome, or PTLDS, with symptoms that include extreme fatigue, arthritis, muscle pain, and cognitive difficulties.
“I find it amazing that when you show up at the doctor’s office you are not told that there is a 10 to 20 percent chance that your life as you know it has ended,” says Lewis. “Nobody seems to be focusing on the next step: How to prevent the subsequent rise of the chronic condition.”
Dr. Lewis is working hard to change all that. His team recently received a large grant to attack the problem, and they have four promising approaches:
- a mouse study of a regimen that eradicated the bacterium in the test tube, setting the stage for human trials;
- antibiotic cocktails using existing drugs
- strategies to discover new drugs that selectively target the Lyme bacterium
- ways to alter the composition of the microbiome—the community of microorganisms inhabiting the human body—to stop the autoimmune reactions that characterize the disease
All four show exciting promise. The grant, Lewis says, “will give us the flexibility to test our approaches in parallel, which will save us an enormous amount of time.”