Another Drug to Fight Lyme Disease

Lyme disease was a big part of my youth, from tick-checks as a Girl Scout to always wearing long sleeves, pants, and a hat on a hike. This month researchers reported in Scientific Reports that they have identified two FDA-approved antibiotics, azlocillin and cefotamine, to treat doxycycline-resistant Borrelia burgdorferi.

In my mid-20s, I contracted Lyme disease near where the disease was first found, good old Lyme, CT while I was going to Grad School at Yale. The standard treatment is a course of doxycycline for 2-4 weeks. Yet the hard reality is that detection is difficult with an unreliable clinical test and if you don’t catch the onset of the disease quick enough, you may have symptoms for life, even after you finish the course of antibiotics. Here is a recent review in Scientific Reports on the lyme disease clinical test and developments on tick-borne illnesses.

This is daunting for us hikers on the East Coast, especially with the rise of another tick-borne disease called Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. RadioLab, a NPR podcast, featured Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in an interesting story, Alpha Gal, about how a tick bite and the disease led to a red-meat allergy. All very scary for hikers in Eastern United States.

Here is the slightly good news. Researchers from Stanford University, UCSF, and Loyola College have found that azlocillin and cefotamine separately decrease growth of the drug-resistant bacteria that cause Lyme disease and are even more effective when used together. The research was initially performed in cell cultures and then in mice, but not yet in humans.

Now the downside is that doctors still need to use the standard pill-form antibiotics like doxycycline for a traditional presentation of these tick-borne diseases. Both azlocillin and cefotamine are given intravenously, which means going to a hospital daily or more to receive the drug from an IV drip. Doctors will likely try these already FDA-approved drugs in patients presenting challenging cases and report the outcomes in the coming years. But in the meanwhile, let’s hope a better test comes out.

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