Let’s Talk About Co-Infections

We hear Lyme, Lyme, Lyme, all day long, once we have been infected. We live and breathe this terrible disease. Research it, talk about it, try to make it through it the best we can, and if you are one of the really unlucky ones, just trying to live everyday. But, many of these co-infections often are ignored. Your LLMD’s are sometimes so swept up in Lyme, they don’t even test for them (which is even more inaccurate than Lyme testing), or make a clinical diagnosis of them. Unfortunately, it is generally the co-infections that cause the most severe symptoms, make treatment much longer, and are the ones that are much more deadly.

 

What is a co-infection? A co-infection is another pathogen, whether it be parasitic or bacterial that is carried by ticks. Co-infection meaning you are infected by more than Lyme disease itself. Today I will be covering information about the main co-infections. Babesia, Bartonella, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichliosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Other tick borne co-infections include: Powassan encephalitis, Mycoplasma, Q fever, Typhus, and Tularemia.

 

Babesia is a co-infection that is a protozoan parasite, not a bacteria, and it infects your red blood cells. It is thought that Babesia is the most common tick co-infection and there are more than a hundred strains of the co-infection (another reason why so hard to test for). Babesia was discovered in 1888 by Hungarian scientist, Victor Babes. It has been reported throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia since the discovery. 

 

 Babesia generally first starts out with fatigue, a high fever, chills , and can cause nausea and vomiting. So.. quite possible to think you have a  flu of sorts (just like Lyme’s first symptoms can be). The parasitic infection then progresses to drenching night sweats (tell tale sign), fatigue headache, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting. More serious symptoms include low blood pressure, severe anemia, and liver problems. Severe symptoms include: acute respiratory failure, heart, liver and kidney failure,  disseminated intravascular coagulation and coma.

 

Bartonella is a gram negative bacteria that has about 24 different strains, and about half known to infect humans. Until about 15 years ago, only 3 different strains were known to man : Cat Scratch Disease(catttt scratttchhhh fevvaaaaahhhh), Carrion’s disease, and trench fever. Not all strains that affect humans are caused by ticks. Example being, the mainly heard of strain of Bartonella, Cat Scratch Fever, is spread by flea and cat bites, as well as cat scratches (bet you couldn’t figure that last one out lol) but is not the same strain that is transferred by ticks. 

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Symptoms of Bartonella include when first infected, fever, headache, poor appetite and an unusual streaked rash (think red stretch marks). Painful soles of your feet is a telltale sign of bartonella, but other symptoms include : swollen glands and lymph nodes, lower abdomen pain, broken veins and capillaries, neurological issues such as vision issues seizures, and due to inflammation, enlarged spleen, cardiovascular and central nervous system issues, as well as comas. 

 

Anaplasmosis is another tick-borne bacteria. This bacteria can survive in nature because it cycles between ticks and small animals, particularly rodents. Symptom wise, once again, it begins with flu-like symptoms. Once the disease has progressed, it can cause increased heart rates, severe anaemia, diarrhea, hematuria and weight loss. Fun fact: David Letterman in 2009 announced he was infected with anaplasmosis, and attributed it to camping with his 5 year old son in his tree house.

 

Ehrlichiosis was first identified in 1986 in humans, although it was a known veterinary pathogen much before that. There is often some confusion because both anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis  are very closely related to one another. Ehrichliosis can be much more severe based on symptoms. Once again, feeling a little redundant here, begins with flu-like symptoms. Although most cases are not life threatening, this disease can be deadly. Hospitalizations among symptomatic patients range between 40-50% with a 2-3% fatality rate. Serious symptoms include: long-term fevers, toxic or septic shock like syndromes, respiratory distress, meningoencephalitis, seizures and comas. 

 

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or RMSF for short, is generally found in the midwest and southern parts of the United States but has been found throughout the U.S. It’s key characteristic is of course the spots that the disease can cause. First symptoms, you know already… flu-like. Without treatment, RMSF can be fatal within the first 8 days. Reason being, this bacteria effects the cell linings in your body. This disease’s most severe and deadly symptoms can effect every symptom of your body and can cause long-term damage such as gangrene and amputation, partial paralysis, loss of bladder and bowel control, hearing loss, and language disorders.  

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In my personal opinion, the best way to go about treating your co-infections when you have Lyme disease, is to address your co-infections while you are going through your Lyme treatment, even if it is one at a time. This is Dr. J’s stance, anyway, and Dr. S. has seemed to follow this theory as well. The reason for this is that if you are just focusing on Lyme, the co-infections can take over. I have read the same about Dr. Klinghart, with exception be likes to treat Babesia first (parasitics) then attack all at the same time in what he calls an “antimicrobial cocktail”. 

 

Another theory in treatment is that you should address your co-infections first, then go for the Lyme. Or, the Lyme then the co-infections. It can be confusing, but I feel like I am in great hands, and maybe another way is what you feel works best for you and/or has worked for you.

 

Fortunately, most co-infections use the same antibiotics. A bonus of course. In my case, I have always done a combination therapy of sorts. One that attacked Bartonella and Lyme was my Rocephin IV and Ciprofloxin combo. I friggin hated it as I was literally an unfunctional hot mess due to nausea and severe herxing, but maybe it did wonders as I did much better when I shortly after stopped my antibiotics I did much better than my previous break from them. 

 

I was first clinically diagnosed with Bartonella due to the severity of my neurological symptoms, mainly my verbal and physical tics as well at my foot pain. I was clinically diagnosed with Babesia because of my hot and cold flashes as well as my night sweats and will be going on my first anti-malarial next week, Mepron to try to see if there is improvement. I only tested positive for anaplasmosis during my initial co-infection testing and was later tested again for Babesia with negative result. 

 

If you have any of these tell tale symptoms of these co-infections, discuss with your LLMD. If they choose to ignore you, time to choose another LLMD. You cannot fully treat your Lyme unless you address your co-infections. It should also be noted that you CAN have a co-infection or co-infections and NOT have Lyme disease. A tick doesn’t have to carry both diseases. 

 

For more information on symptoms, check out:   http://www.lyme-symptoms.com/LymeCoinfectionChart.html . This chart also includes some of the other diseases that are tick borne that were not covered in todays blog.

 

Have a great day, everyone! 🙂 🙂

 

Sources: 

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/08/11/deconstructing-lyme-disease/to-treat-lyme-disease-focus-on-the-co-infections, http://www.lymedisease.org/lyme101/coinfections/coinfection.html, http://www.prweb.com/releases/2008/09/prweb1345344.htm, http://columbia-lyme.org/patients/tbd_babesia.html, http://www.lyme-symptoms.com/CoInfectionsBartonellas.html, cdc.gov, wikipedia.com, http://hardinmd.lib.uiowa.edu/cdc/5271.html, http://www.lymenet.org/BurrGuide200810.pdf, http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/02/05/dr-dietrich-klinghardt-on-lyme-disease.aspx, biteme.com

8 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Co-Infections

    • Thank you! Sometimes it is impossible to figure out what the heck they are talking about. Plus they are usually in extremely long paragraphs, hard for a Lymie to get through.

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