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What Are Lyme Disease Coinfections6 min read

Ticks can carry and transmit more than just Borrelia, the primary pathogen responsible for a Lyme Disease infection. You can get infected with multiple species of bacteria, parasites, viruses, and fungi with a single tick bite. Alternatively, you may have contracted them earlier and carried them unaware, only to have them take advantage of your weakened immune system during a Lyme infection. These coexisting foreign invaders are called coinfections.

The most common coinfections in the United States are borreliosis, babesiosis, Bartonella, anaplasmosis, tick-borne relapsing fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, powassan virus, and tularemia. You may also test positive for mycoplasma, chlamydia, Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus (CMV), human herpes viruses, herpes simplex viruses, and herpes zoster virus, and many others. Depending on your symptoms and health exams, your Brio-care medical team may order tests to confirm any of these when defining your custom treatment protocol.

What is Babesia?

Babesiosis is a common Lyme disease coinfection. It’s caused by Babesia parasites, most often B. microtia,  which infect red blood cells. Babesia is transmitted by the same ticks that carry Lyme disease, the black-legged tick, but it can also be transmitted during blood transfusions or congenitally from mother to baby. Symptoms of Babesiosis include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, hot flashes, nausea, dark urine, and more. It becomes serious with the onset of thrombocytopenia, disseminated intravascular coagulation, hemodynamic instability, acute respiratory distress, renal failure, hepatic compromise, and altered mental status.

What is Bartonella?

Bartonella is a bacteria that invades red blood cells and blood vessel lining. Inside these cells, it evades the immune system response, leading to persistent infection. Bartonellosis is one of Lyme’s most serious coinfections, producing symptoms that include headache, fatigue, swollen glands, and a streaked rash in the early stages. Neurological symptoms are common, including encephalopathy, a form of brain damage or disease that may lead to seizures. Cognitive dysfunction and central nervous system lesions sometimes occur. Bartonella is the cause of more serious conditions, including cat scratch disease, Carrion’s disease, and trench fever.

What is Anaplasmosis?

Anaplasmosis is caused by the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Fever, chills, muscle aches, brain fog, and headache are common symptoms, but bleeding issues, organ failure, and respiratory failure can occur in the later stages of the illness. While nearly every infection causes white blood cells to increase, white blood cells go down with anaplasmosis. Elevated liver enzymes and low platelets are other diagnostic indicators of infection.

What is Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever?

Tick-borne relapsing fever is a bacterial infection that can cause fever that comes and goes, headache, muscle pain, joint aches, and nausea. The fever pattern is often characterized by three days with high fever followed by seven days without fever and another three days with a fever. If left untreated, this cycle continues. TBRF is usually carried by soft ticks who nest near rodent dens and come out at night to feed on the host, similar to bed bugs. Exposure often occurs in remote cabins in the western United States, where the ticks live in the walls or attic. Another form of TBRF, Borrelia miyamotoi disease, is known as “hard tick relapsing fever,” as the black-legged tick, which has a hard body, transmits B. miyamotoi.

What is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?

Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a bacterial infection characterized by fever, headache, and rash. It can be deadly if not treated early and accurately. The rash often develops on the soles of the feet and hands two to four days after the onset of fever and later spreads to other areas of the body. The rash may appear as pinpoint spots or larger red splotches. After recovery, patients could be left with paralysis, mental disability, hearing loss, or permanent damage to the blood vessels, leading to amputation of fingers, toes, arms, or legs.

What is Ehrlichiosis?

Ehrlichiosis is an umbrella term for the diseases caused by the bacteria Ehrlichia chaffeensis, E. ewingii, or E. muris eauclairensis. Spread by both the black-legged tick and lone star tick, symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, and upset stomach. Transmission by blood transfusion and organ transplant have also occurred. About one-third of people develop a rash that begins five days after the onset of fever and appears as either red splotches or dots. Late-stage ehrlichiosis can cause inflammation of the brain and surrounding tissue (meningoencephalitis), uncontrolled bleeding, and respiratory or organ failure.

What is Powassan Virus?

Powassan virus is still considered rare, although reported cases have increased in recent years. Ticks contract the virus from rodents that carry it in their blood. Infected ticks transmit Powassan to humans during a bite, but ticks cannot contract it from humans, as we do not develop high enough levels of the virus. Therefore, humans are considered “dead-end” hosts for the Powassan virus. Some people never show symptoms, but the onset of illness usually occurs from one week to one month after the bite, causing fever, headache, weakness, and vomiting. As the virus spreads, it may infect the brain (encephalitis) or the tissue around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Advanced symptoms include loss of coordination, confusion, difficulty speaking, and seizures, as well as chronic headaches, loss of muscle mass and strength, and memory issues. Unfortunately, one out of ten with severe Powassan virus will lose their life.

What Is Tularemia?

Tularemia is an infection caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis that affects the eyes, skin, lungs, and lymph nodes. Also known as deer fly fever or rabbit fever, there are several subsets of Tularemia with distinctive symptoms that typically show up between three and five days after exposure and often include ulcers.

Coinfection Symptoms Summary:

As you can see, the symptoms of many of these coinfections overlap, making it difficult without targeted laboratory testing to determine what infection or multiple infections are present. Unfortunately, it’s not yet standard protocol in the mainstream medical community to test for coinfections unless there’s a positive Lyme disease test. But it’s absolutely possible to have one or more of these coinfections without having Lyme disease.

That is exactly why Brio Medical Center partners with cutting-edge laboratories worldwide that make tick-borne illness their business. Through research and development initiatives that produce precision tests for Borrelia and its coinfections, these laboratories provide answers you need. By analyzing your test results, we’re able to determine the root cause of your condition and create a customized treatment plan with proven therapies that’ll restore your vigor and get you back to feeling like your best self again.

To learn more about Lyme Disease treatment in Scottsdale, Arizona at Brio-medical, sign up for a free treatment consultation today with a patient care coordinator.

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