New Lyme disease treatment could prevent chronic disease

Each year, tens of thousands of new Lyme disease patients find their symptoms persist despite standard antibiotic treatment.

Far from being cured, they find their lives upended by chronic Lyme disease (also called persistent Lyme disease or post-treatment Lyme disease). Symptoms include bone-deep fatigue, cognitive impairment, arthritis, muscle and joint pain, intermittent fever, chills, and sweats, which can last for months to years.

Medical solutions have proven elusive, but researchers at Northeastern University say they have developed a treatment for Lyme disease that can prevent chronic Lyme disease from developing in the first place.

Kim Lewis, a prominent professor of biology and director of the Center for Antimicrobial Discovery at Northeastern University, said human clinical trials of his discovery could begin as early as next year.

Final toxicology trials are scheduled to continue this summer, but so far, the treatment (an antibiotic known as hygromycin A) is non-toxic to animals and effectively treats Lyme disease in mice. Lewis said it cured him.

He said the real hope for hygromycin A in preventing chronic Lyme disease is that it is a targeted antibiotic that selectively kills the bacteria that cause Lyme disease without damaging the beneficial bacteria in the patient’s microbiome. said.

According to Lewis’ theory, the broad-spectrum antibiotics doxycycline and amoxicillin, traditionally prescribed for Lyme disease, wreak havoc in the gut by wiping out a healthy balance of bacteria.

“The microbiome is now tied to almost every aspect of our health, especially the development of our immune system,” says Lewis.

Kim Lewis photo
Distinguished Professor at Kim Lewis University.Photo Credit: Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

According to the National Institutes of Health, a healthy gut plays many roles, including preventing disease, regulating the immune system, supporting metabolism and aiding brain function.

It’s no surprise to Lewis that a depleted microbiome can cause many of the frustrating and seemingly endless symptoms associated with chronic Lyme disease.

In previous research, he found that patients with long-standing symptoms of Lyme disease tended to have different gut microbiota than healthy patients.

“I think the factor is broad-spectrum antibiotics that damage the microbiome, altering the immune system and causing immune disorders with symptoms such as fatigue and lightheadedness,” Lewis says. says.

“We hope that this compound, hygromycin A, will reduce cases of chronic Lyme disease in patients being treated for acute Lyme disease,” he says.

“I’m not talking about treating chronic Lyme disease,” says Lewis. “I’m talking about prevention.”

The need is real.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates that up to 476,000 people in the U.S. suffer from deer tick bites each year with Lyme disease, a significant increase from a few years ago.

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