Lyme Misdiagnosis: A Serious Problem

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“In seven studies conducted in endemic areas, comprising a total of 1902 patients referred for suspected Lyme disease, only 7–31% had active Lyme disease and 5–20% had previous Lyme disease. Among the remainder, 50–88% had no evidence of ever having had Lyme disease.”

Source: Lantos, Paul “Chronic Lyme disease: the controversies and the science” Expert Rev. Anti Infect. Ther. 9(7), 787–797 (2011)

So what is causing the symptoms of “chronic Lyme” patients?

The CDC and NIH emphasize that experts do not support the use of the term “chronic Lyme disease” because of confusion. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, Feder et al classified those with the chronic Lyme label into four predominant groups:

  • Category 1: Symptoms of unknown cause, with no evidence of Borrelia burgdorferi infection
  • Category 2: A well-defined illness unrelated to B. burgdorferi infection
  • Category 3: Symptoms of unknown cause, with antibodies against B. burgdorferi but no history of objective clinical findings that are consistent with Lyme disease
  • Category 4: Post–Lyme disease syndrome

Feder et al observed “Only patients with category 4 disease have post–Lyme disease symptoms.” Looking at references 31-33 below, Feder et al stated:

Data from studies of patients who underwent reevaluation at academic medical centers suggest that the majority of patients presumed to have chronic Lyme disease have category 1 or 2 disease.

In other words, evidence indicates that the symptoms of most “chronic Lyme” patients were clearly not caused by Lyme disease. In addition, most “chronic Lyme” patients have multiple red flags of quackery, including more than one false diagnosis.

References pointing to massive false positive diagnosis of Lyme disease:

References from Figure 1 :

31. Reid MC, et al. The consequences of overdiagnosis and overtreatment of Lyme disease: an observational study. Ann. Intern. Med. 128(5), 354–362 (1998).

32. Sigal LH. Summary of the first 100 patients seen at a Lyme disease referral center. Am. J. Med. 88(6), 577–581 (1990).

33. Steere AC, et al. The overdiagnosis of Lyme disease. JAMA 269(14), 1812–1816 (1993).

34. Hassett AL, et al. Psychiatric comorbidity and other psychological factors in patients with “chronic Lyme disease”. Am. J. Med. 122(9), 843–850 (2009).

35. Qureshi MZ, et al. Overdiagnosis and overtreatment of Lyme disease in children. Pediatr. Infect. Dis. J. 21(1), 12–14 (2002).

36. Rose CD, et al. The overdiagnosis of Lyme disease in children residing in an endemic area. Clin. Pediatr. (Phila.) 33(11), 663–668 (1994).

37. Djukic M, et al. The diagnostic spectrum in patients with suspected chronic Lyme neuroborreliosis – the experience from one year of a university hospital’s Lyme neuroborreliosis outpatients clinic. Eur. J. Neurol. 18(4), 547–555 (2010).

38. Burdge DR, O’Hanlon DP. Experience at a referral center for patients with suspected Lyme disease in an area of nonendemicity: first 65 patients. Clin. Infect. Dis. 16(4), 558–560 (1993)