Many patients in Scotland and throughout the world are being failed by current medical practice regarding Lyme Disease (also known as borreliosis) and related tick-borne co-infections. As stated in a recent editorial, Lyme disease: time for a new approach?, in the British Medical Journal, “recently, the medical community has been collectively forced out of its comfort zone on Lyme disease by increasing evidence of the complexity of this multisystem disease”.
If borreliosis is caught early, patients recover with standard treatment with doxycycline. However, 10 to 20% of patients go on to develop a debilitating chronic condition called Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome. Currently, many patients are not cured by the standard treatment and are then abandoned without further help. Their quality of life is severely impaired and many such patients seek private help or self-medicate.
Borrelia burgdorferi, one of the agents which causes borreliosis, is a spirochete similar to Treponema pallidum, the organism that causes syphilis. However, its genomic structure is much more complex. It is four times more common than HIV, can devastate lives for decades, and yet there have been several hundred times more clinical trials for HIV than for Lyme, despite the two illnesses being discovered around the same time.
At present in Scotland, there is a lack of understanding of the incidence of borreliosis, and there are issues with testing, and issues with treatment which are negatively affecting the patient experience.