Lyme Disease May be Sexually Transmitted: New Information on Symptoms

First Posted: Mar 03, 2014 12:31 PM EST

Lyme disease is transmitted to humans through blacklegged ticks that are infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Medical experts believe that the already-broad definition of the disease has led to poor treatments and misdiagnoses.

There are three stages of the bacterial disease, and it's important to catch it in the first stage or else other complications may result as symptoms progress. In this first stage, a skin lesion is usually identified, causing headaches, musculoskeletal pain, coughing, sore throat, conjunctivitis, and minor neurological impairment. At this point, the Lyme disease can be treated with penicillin or other short-term antibiotics.

The second stage can reveal some alarming symptoms, such as meningitis, encephalitis, and cranial neuritis. These neurological abnormalities can result in facial palsy, and some patients may experience cardiac issues. The second stage takes place between one and several months after the onset of the infection.

The third stage is particularly frightening, as symptoms could take several months or even years to become noticeable. At this point, the "chronic" Lyme disease can result in death, whether it's caused by heart issues, the previously worsened cognitive ailments, or suicide as a result of depression.

As if these aspects weren't already concerning enough, a new study has found that the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi that causes the Lyme disease can be sexually transmitted. Researchers also discovered that the bacterium needs manganese to grow and survive, which could be an important detail for researchers moving forward.

These two important discoveries can help prevent the spread of the disease and can also possibly kill the bacterium in its early stages before more serious complications begin to develop. Some patients are given antibiotics in the later stages of Lyme disease, a practice that the Infectious Diseases Society of America says is harmful because antibiotics administered for an extended period of time do not provide the best results and can also be harmful for the body. The disease may become immune to the drugs, and consuming them for a long time might result in fatal complications.

To read more about Lyme disease's history and recent discoveries, check out this National Geographic article.

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