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Talking about autoimmunity & Lyme disease

As part of our focus on Lyme disease for Lyme Disease Awareness Month, we’re re-sharing a story from the Breakspear Medical Bulletin (Issue 41) that talks about a lecture presented at Breakspear Medical in 2016, which links Lyme to various autoimmune diseases, such as coeliac disease, diabetes and thyroid disorders.

Excerpt from Breakspear Medical Bulletin Issue 41:

As part of the 2016 Breakspear Medical and the Environmental Medicine Foundation lecture series, [the then] newly appointed European Chairman of  ILADS, Dr Pol De Saedeleer, presented on auto-immunity and Lyme disease.

Presenting his lecture Induction of autoimmunity, Dr Pol De Saedeleer started with the surprising statement, “Less than 10% of all Lyme cases are officially diagnosed and reported.”

Dr De Saedeleer has a particular interest in Lyme disease and has given seminars all over the world on this topic, including at the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) and the American Academy of Anti-Aging (A4M).  He explained that there are many challenges in diagnosing Lyme.  The biggest challenges are that the symptoms differ considerably between patients, which is because they are presenting with different infections and have different strains of the infecting microorganisms that cause the disease (called pathogens), and this is further complicated by symptoms of co-infections (other infections that are happening at the same time).

Lyme symptoms mimic other diseases

The symptoms of Lyme can mimic many other diseases, including arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and thyroid disorders.

A doctor trying to diagnose and treat the patient’s symptoms must then choose and evaluate the right laboratory analyses.  While it would be ideal to be able to run every test available, due to associated costs and, in some cases, restrictive treatment guidelines, many doctors are not able to run a wide range of tests in order to best narrow down the cause(s) of the patient’s symptoms.

Lyme is a multi-infectious disease. This means that once the pathogen Borrelia has infected the body, other different pathogens, such as Babesia, can be more easily contracted causing other disease(s) and/or earlier infection(s) to be reactivated.  This results in Lyme infection and co-infections, to present a myriad of symptoms from each.

A study published in 2000 indicated that 38.5% of patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) had a positive serologic reaction to Borrelia (the pathogen causing Lyme).  The positive serologic reaction shows that these patients’ immune systems have, at some point or another, had to defend the body against Borrelia.

With so many symptoms appearing in patients, some overlapping and others entirely separate, it is easy to understand why many cases of Lyme go undiagnosed, with some patients being diagnosed with the co-infections and others not receiving a diagnosis.

Autoimmunity and molecular mimicry

Autoimmunity is the system of immune responses of an organism against its own healthy cells and tissues. The processes of autoimmunity are very complicated and include many different disease processes. A mechanism by which infection is linked to autoimmunity is molecular mimicry.  Molecular mimicry is when the organism’s own protein resembles a foreign invader, which activates the immune system against its own protein.

Lyme is a multifactorial disease

With Lyme, immunity is disturbed, inflammation occurs, hormonal imbalance can happen, as well as brain function impairment and disruption to the detoxification system, causing toxins to accumulate.

To successfully treat Lyme, extensive testing is required, to determine all risk factors and address the multifactorial symptoms.

Visit our page on Lyme disease to find out more about how we test and treat for it.


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