Research Shows A Lowered Immune Response Leads To Persistent Lyme Disease Symptoms


PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif., Aug. 23, 2018, /PRNewswire/ — Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading nonprofit funder of innovative Lyme disease research in the US, today announced the publication of new data that offer valuable insights into the role of the immune system in fighting acute Lyme disease.

The data demonstrate a correlation between initial activation of specific components of the immune response, and a patient’s ability to recover following 21 days of doxycycline.  Published in Frontiers in Immunology, the research, primaily funded by the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, was led by Lisa K. Blum, Ph.D., a former postdoctoral scholar at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Blum was one of the first recipients of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation Emerging Leader Award, a grant designed to support the research of promising scientists into Lyme disease and the bacteria that causes it, B. burgdorferi.

“This research addresses one of the ongoing mysteries of Lyme disease, providing important evidence toward understanding why some people get better after a 21-day course of doxycycline, and some remain sick,” said Wendy Adams, research grant director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation. “The insights from this study not only show that both a competent immune response and antibiotics are necessary to rid the infection, but also point us toward research avenues that could lead to new therapeutics.”

The data show that patients who did not demonstrate strong B-cell immune responses were more likely to experience post-treatment symptoms.  Researchers found that the study participants who fully returned to health following 21 days of doxycycline treatment had significantly higher levels of a type of blood B cells, known as plasmablasts, prior to treatment than the patients who experienced persistent symptoms and met the criteria for diagnosis for post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS) for at least 6 months following treatment.  Importantly, the study also found that plasmablast levels may be useful in predicting which patients have a higher chance of treatment failure after a short course of antibiotics.  These data confirm previous findings in some animal models showing demonstrable immune system suppression after infection and wide variability in the immune response among different animals after infection.

In addition to an association between plasmablasts and disease resolution, researchers also found that patients with persistent symptoms had a lower antibody response; more specifically, these patients exhibited reduced clonal expansion of B-cells.

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