Background: Therapeutic guidelines for treatment of late manifestations of Lyme borreliosis have not yet become well established. Patients with symptoms suggesting central nervous system involvement are often treated with courses of intravenous ceftriaxone. This is an expensive treatment approach with potentially severe side effects. We compared the efficacy, side effects and costs of doxycycline and ceftriaxone in the treatment of such patients.
Patients and methods: Adult patients qualified for the study if they had nonspecific symptoms suggesting central nervous system involvement for more than six months (but without overt clinical signs of the involvement), had positive serum borrelial antibody titers and/or erythema migrans prior to the onset of symptoms, had not been previously treated with antibiotics and did not have pleocytosis in the cerebrospinal fluid. Patients were given either 100 mg of oral doxycycline twice daily for 4 weeks (23 patients) or 2 g of intravenous ceftriaxone daily for 2 weeks followed by 100 mg of doxycycline twice daily for another 2 weeks (23 patients). Clinical outcome was assessed during a 12-month follow-up period.
Results: Improvement in the frequency and/or the intensity of symptoms was reported by more than two-thirds of the 46 patients enrolled in the study. The two treatment regimens were found to be correspondingly effective. Photosensitivity reactions and gastrointestinal symptoms were noted more often among patients receiving doxycycline than in those receiving ceftriaxone. Treatment with doxycycline proved to be much cheaper than with ceftriaxone.
Conclusions: In patients with previously untreated chronic Lyme borreliosis with symptoms suggesting central nervous system involvement but without overt clinical signs of it, and without pleocytosis in the cerebrospinal fluid, treatment with doxycycline is as effective as with ceftriaxone. Treatment with doxycycline is cheap and relatively safe, but gastrointestinal symptoms and photosensitivity reactions can be expected more often than with ceftriaxone.