Lyme Disease may be Sexually Transmitted: Study

First Posted: Jan 26, 2014 01:38 PM EST

New research suggests that Lyme disease-a tickborne infection caused by Borrelia burgdoferi, a type of corkscrew-shaped bacteria that's known as spirochete-may be transmitted sexually.

"Our findings will change the way Lyme disease is viewed by doctors and patients," said Marianne Middelveen, lead author of the study presented in Carmel, via a press release. "It explains why the disease is more common than one would think if only ticks were involved in transmission."

For the study, researchers tested semen and vaginal secretion samples from three groups: control subjects without evidence of Lyme disease, random subjects who tested positive for Lyme disease, and married heterosexual couples engaging in unprotected sex who tested positive for the disease.

While all of the control groups tested negative for the bacteria found in Lyme disease, women with Lyme disease tested positive for Borrelia burgdorferi found in vaginal secretions. Half of the men with Lyme disease also tested positive from identical strains found in genital secretions.

"The presence of the Lyme spirochete in genital secretions and identical strains in married couples strongly suggests that sexual transmission of the disease occurs," said Dr. Mayne, via the release. "We don't yet understand why women with Lyme disease have consistently positive vaginal secretions, whilst semen samples are more variable. Obviously there is more work to be done here."

Dermatologist Peter Mayne from Australia who was involved in the study's research also pointed to the unknown risks of contracting Lyme disease raised by the study.

"There is always some risk of getting Lyme disease from a tickbite in the woods," he adds. "But there may be a bigger risk of getting Lyme disease in the bedroom."

More information regarding the study can be found via the Journal of Investigative Medicine.

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