Each year, approximately 27,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease. For most, the symptoms disappear after treatment with antibiotics. Unfortunately, 25% of those treated have chronic symptoms, such as fatigue, concentration disorders or pain. In eBioMedicine, researchers revealed their struggle to pinpoint clear biological, genetic or clinical causes for the lingering symptoms.

One in four people treated after infection with the Lyme bacterium have symptoms like fatigue, concentration disorders or pain. By contrast, only one in five people without Lyme infection experience these health issues, indicating a lower frequency than in those with Lyme disease.

Symptom predictors

Researchers from Radboudumc, Amsterdam UMC and RIVM explored whether it is possible to predict in the treatment phase who will have chronic symptoms. The findings did not yield clear biological, genetic or clinical causes.

However, the researchers did observe a slightly more frequent immune reaction against the Lyme bacterium in the blood of people who had chronic symptoms. Whether this reaction truly contributes to chronic symptoms due to Lyme disease requires further investigation. Notably, a higher perceived severity of Lyme disease at the start of the treatment phase was a predictor for chronic symptoms.

Symptoms present at the study’s outset, such as reduced physical functioning and other underlying diseases and health issues, also predicted chronic symptoms. This was true for people both with and without Lyme disease.

LymeProspect study

The aforementioned findings stem from the LymeProspect study. In this study, researchers aimed to identify a potential cause for chronic symptoms. The researchers tested the blood of 1,135 people with Lyme disease and administered questionnaires at Tekenradar.nl. They then compared the findings with those from control groups whose populations did not have Lyme disease.