Over 800,000 Americans suffer from chronic Lyme disease and experience associated symptoms such as malaise, neurological disorders, cardiac complications, and arthritis. Lyme disease is often treated with antibiotics, however 10-20% of Lyme patients develop posttreatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). A study published in the American Society for Microbiology proposes a new way to diagnose PTLDS via gut microbe testing.
Researchers compared fecal samples from 87 patients with PTLDS, each of whom received antibiotics at the time of their initial Lyme disease diagnosis, with 169 fecal samples from healthy donors and 123 fecal samples from intensive care unit (ICU) patients. Results showed an increase of Blautia species over 10% in PTLDS patients compared to 1.34% and 0.07% in healthy and ICU controls, respectively. Increased Blautia has been linked to other diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, obesity, and autoimmune diseases. In addition, an increase of Enterobacteriaceae over 10% was found in one-fifth of PTLDS patients, compared to 1.14% in the healthy cohort. Enterobacteriaceae can contribute to inflammation and is associated with inflammatory bowel diseases, metabolic disorders (type 2 diabetes), and immune diseases. PTLDS patients also showed a 15% decrease in Bacteroides compared to 23% in the healthy control. Bacteroides play an important role in producing short-chain fatty acids, which contribute to the maintenance of intestinal barrier integrity. A decrease in Bacteroides has been linked to depression and other symptoms of PTLDS.
The authors suggest these findings may lead to a new diagnostic tool for PTLDS as well as lead to new treatments to rebalance the gut microbiota, including fecal microbiome transplants. For Function Medicine practitioners, addressing the gut microbiome is de rigeur.