Background: Use of intravenous penicillin and ceftriaxone to treat Lyme neuroborreliosis is well documented, although oral doxycycline could be a cost-effective alternative. We aimed to compare the efficacy of oral doxycycline with intravenous ceftriaxone for the treatment of Lyme neuroborreliosis.
Methods: From April, 2004, to October, 2007, we recruited consecutive adult patients from nine hospitals in southern Norway into a non-inferiority trial. Inclusion criteria were neurological symptoms suggestive of Lyme neuroborreliosis without other obvious causes, and presence of any of the following: a CSF white-cell count of more than five per mL; intrathecal production of specific Borrelia burgdorferi antibodies; or acrodermatitis chronicum atrophicans. Patients were randomly allocated to receive 200 mg oral doxycycline or 2 g intravenous ceftriaxone once per day for 14 days, in a double-blind, double-dummy design. A composite clinical score (range 0 to 64, 0=best) was based on standardised interviews and clinical neurological examination. The primary outcome was reduction in clinical score at 4 months after the start of treatment. Analysis was per protocol. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00138801.
Findings: Of 118 patients who underwent randomisation, 102 completed the study (mean clinical score at baseline 8.5 [SD 4.1]). 4 months after the start of treatment, mean score improvement in the doxycycline group (n=54) was 4.5 (95% CI 3.6 to 5.5) points and that in the ceftriaxone group (n=48) was 4.4 (3.4 to 5.4) points (95% CI for difference between groups -0.9 to 1.1; p=0.84). 26 (48%) patients in the doxycycline group and 16 (33%) in the ceftriaxone group had total recovery (95% CI for difference between groups -4% to 34%; p=0.13). Side-effects possibly related to treatment were reported in 21 (37%) and 26 (46%) patients in these groups, respectively (-28% to 9%; p=0.30). Three patients discontinued ceftriaxone treatment owing to adverse events.
Interpretation: Oral doxycycline is as efficient as intravenous ceftriaxone for the treatment of European adults with Lyme neuroborreliosis.