Deer Tick

Chronic Lyme disease takes on many forms. 

Its manifestations vary from horrific arthritis to Parkinson’s disease to psychosis. 

A Scandia mother whose son is hospitalized at the Anoka Mental Health Center believes latent Lyme disease is causing his psychiatric symptoms. 

“Antibiotics, particularly Rocephin (ceftriaxone), seem to help his condition, but his physicians are reluctant to provide long-term treatment,” Lana Barnes said, adding that her husband and second son also had Lyme disease.

It’s a familiar problem to many who suffer. 

“Most doctors go by the Infectious Disease Society of America guidelines that recommends four weeks of antibiotic therapy to cure patients with Lyme,” Barnes said. “They don’t believe in chronic Lyme disease. That is rather arrogant of them since they can’t even cure acne in four weeks.”

The frustrated mother has done her research when it comes to the disease. Treatment may kill infection in the circulatory system, but not in the nervous system, where it can remain dormant, she said. 

Barnes believes chronic Lyme is analogous to a modern-day syphilis. Like syphilis, it is caused by a bacterial spirochete and has early, middle and late stages. Like syphilis, it is difficult to treat in the late stage and like syphilis, the Lyme bacteria has been found in the brain. 

“Lyme is nicknamed the ‘great mimicker,’” she added, “like syphilis used to be.”  

A recent paper by Swiss researcher Judith Miklossy in The Open Neurology Journal compared late or chronic Lyme to late or chronic syphilis. Her research at the International Alzheimer Research Center found that Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme, was found in the brains of patients suffering late Lyme neuroborreliosis.

The term neuroborreliosis has been introduced to denote involvement of the nervous system, according to the researcher. 

Miklossy wrote that syphilis was once a severe, widespread disorder. In its late stage, it caused various neurological and psychiatric symptoms, including paralysis, tremor, mood disorder and dementia. In 1875, it was suggested that syphilis caused neuropsychiatric symptoms. In the early 1900s, it was established that the spirochete causing syphilis, T. pallidum, invades the brain and is responsible for chronic neuropsychiatric disorders that appear months, years or decades following infection.  

Today, the same question is in the center of debate with respect to Lyme disease. 

There is a strong difference of opinion, Miklossy said in her review. One side claims that B. burgdorferi cannot survive in tissues following a standard course of antibiotics. As in syphilis, there is a lack of successful detection of the spirochetes in affected tissues. Persisting symptoms following such standard therapy are called post-Lyme syndrome and considered psychosomatic. 

On the other side are those who claim the bacteria can evade destruction and cause persistent chronic infection, analogous to the continuing infection caused by the syphilis spirochete. 

In her conclusions, the Swiss scientist wrote that continuous B. burgdorferi infection can cause symptoms of chronic Lyme neuroborreliosis, including stroke, cognitive decline and other neuropsychiatric conditions. Research cited in her 2012 paper indicated neuropsychiatric manifestations occur in about 15 percent of affected individuals.

The spirochete can locate intracellularly, or within a cell or cells, Miklossy concluded, and survive in more resistant forms. To eradicate infection, she suggested a combined antibiotic treatment for a longer period of time be considered, like that used to treat tuberculosis and leprosy.

Meanwhile, Barnes is advocating on her son’s behalf to convince doctors his mental illness is due to the tick-borne disease he contracted more than a decade earlier. 

“Anti-psychotic drugs don’t treat Lyme disease,” Barnes said. “He needs Rocephin and they won’t even consider it. My son believes it is Lyme. They tell us, ‘you must accept your diagnosis. If you do not, that is reason enough for you to stay longer.’“ 

Barnes preferred that her son’s name be kept out of the story but she did say he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder last fall after becoming aggressive and winding up in jail. He didn’t hurt anyone, she said. 

Now in his late 20s, Barnes’ son was bit by a deer tick at 14. He had the telltale bull’s-eye rash, fatigue and joint aches and difficulty sleeping. He took doxycycline for 30 days. “Three years later, he couldn’t get out of bed,” his mother recalled. “He had severe depression, confusion and fatigue.”

Today, he has a history and pattern of responding to Rocephin treatment, but when they take him off the antibiotic, within a few weeks his symptoms return — mild confusion and then psychosis.

“Something needs to be done,” Barnes stated. “There is controversy over treatment of Lyme so doctors disregard other findings. It’s a scary situation borne out of ignorance. 

“I don’t want to see my son turn into a vegetable on these anti-psychotic drugs. He just [lies] down all day. That is harming him and they are not acting in his best interest. We need to put public pressure on doctors and legislators to get us the treatment we need so we’re not dying from Lyme disease.” 

(1) comment


My husband was diagnosed with Lyme Disease 3 years ago. This past January he was diagnosed with ALS. After going to India for Embryonic Stem Cell therapy and seeing him improve in different areas, we are convinced it is Lyme induced ALS. In India, at the clinic we stayed at, there were several different couples, some as young as 31, with the same diagnoses. And all from our corner of the US. Something very strange with this picture. Infectious Disease didn't even want to talk to us several years ago.

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