When people think of Lyme disease, they usually imagine it as one singular disorder. In fact, Lyme can come with a host of co-infections, as is the nature of tick-borne diseases. Ticks survive by feeding on different hosts, and as such, they can pick up numerous bacteria during their lives. When they attach themselves to humans, they can transmit the bacteria into the bloodstream via a single bite. Although the overriding infection is known as Lyme, each patient may be infected to a different degree of severity, depending on what specific bacteria the tick was carrying at the time.
Co-infections are unfortunately common in Lyme patients. A recent study found that in a test of over 3,000 patients, 50% had co-infections subsisting with Lyme, and 30% had more than two or more. Yet not very many people, or even patients for that matter, know about the dangers that co-infections pose. Lyme is already a crippling disease; when you factor in co-infections, it makes it all the more debilitating, especially in its chronic form. A patient suffering from a co-infection is likely to experience significantly more severe symptoms than a patient suffering from Lyme only. It’s important that doctors know about the potential of these co-infections, but unfortunately for patients, very few of them do.
That’s why, when it comes to Lyme, it’s important to consult the right professionals. The BCA Clinic are exceptionally experienced when it comes to tick-borne diseases, and use holistic methods to counter disorders such as Lyme. They know all about co-infections and the dangers they pose to patients, especially when left untreated. However, because Lyme is such an insidious disease, it always pays to educate yourself about the various factors surrounding it, including the most dangerous co-infections that can accompany the disorder.
Babesiosis is a malaria-type parasite that infects the host’s red blood cells. Although the comparison to malaria is alarming, babesiosis is nowhere near as threatening; however, this doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. The symptoms of this infection are similar to Lyme, but usually originate with a more intense period of fever and chills. Because they’re similar, they can often compound the Lyme effects, and severely debilitate chronic patients. On its own, babesiosis is mild, and can rarely be detected, but when paired with Lyme, it can serve to quicken and intensify Lyme symptoms like fatigue and muscle aches, while adding chest pain and shortness of breath into the mix.
Another common and dangerous Lyme co-infection is bartonella. These bacteria reside primarily within the lining of the host’s blood vessels and come in several species. Bartonellosis is self-limiting in theory, but if left to its own devices can quickly become chronic and debilitating for patients. When it goes hand-in-hand with Lyme, the effects can intensify, resulting in accentuated neurological issues. The first signs of bartonellosis are similar to Lyme, and appear similar to flu. However, once the bacteria sets in to its host, neurological symptoms are common, including numbness, blurred vision, memory loss and tremors. These type of symptoms are a relative rarity with Lyme, but they can be some of the most debilitating and concerning of all. Bartonellosis can potentially amplify this cognitive impairment, making it one of the most dangerous co-infections a patient can contract.
Anaplasma is probably the most dangerous co-infection someone can contract alongside Lyme, as it can be potentially life-threatening. The infection is also referred to under the umbrella term ehrlichiosis, which describes several different bacterial diseases, one of which is anaplasma. This infection is fast acting compared to traditional Lyme; it can bring on a rapid, instantaneous high fever, headache and fatigue. Crucially, it can deplete a patient’s white blood cell count and platelet count, making them susceptible to any number of life-endangering conditions. Even if patients are healthy and have a relatively high immunity to the infection, when coupled with Lyme and its effects, anaplasma can severely intensify symptoms and critically debilitate patients. The infection is also hard to test for, making it tough to detect, especially in patients already suspected of Lyme. If a patient doesn’t respond well to Lyme treatment, a learned and Lyme-literate doctor may begin to test for anaplasma.
Part of the scope of these dangerous and insidious co-infections are part of what makes Lyme so problematic for doctors and patients alike. The volume, quantity and intensity of any co-infections can vary from patient to patient, and medical professionals have to thoroughly investigate each case to fully ascertain their diagnosis and treat it accordingly. On top of that, many people and doctors across the world think of Lyme as a singular disease, and are blind to the dangers of both the chronic form and the potential for multiple bacterial infections from a single tick bite. All in all, we need more education on Lyme, as it’s one of the fastest spreading vector-borne diseases of our time.