Chronic Lyme; diagnostic and therapeutic challenges

Acta Neurol Scand Suppl. 2013:(196):38-47. doi: 10.1111/ane.12048.


In this review, we aim to discuss the definition, clinical and laboratory features, diagnostics, and management of chronic Lyme. Chronic Lyme is a rare condition caused by long-lasting and ongoing infection with the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb). The most common manifestations are progressive encephalitis, myelitis, acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans with or without neuropathy, and arthritis. Chronic Lyme is not considered to present with isolated subjective symptoms. Direct detection of Bb has low yield in most manifestations of chronic Lyme, while almost 100% of the cases are seropositive, that is, have detectable Bb IgG antibodies in serum. Detection of Bb antibodies only with Western blot technique and not with ELISA and detection of Bb IgM antibodies without simultaneous detection of Bb IgG antibodies should be considered as seronegativity in patients with long-lasting symptoms. Patients with chronic Lyme in the nervous system (neuroborreliosis) have, with few exceptions, pleocytosis and production of Bb antibodies in their cerebrospinal fluid. Strict guidelines should be applied in diagnostics of chronic Lyme, and several differential diagnoses, including neurological disease, rheumatologic disease, post-Lyme disease syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, and psychiatric disease, should be considered in the diagnostic workup. Antibiotic treatment with administration route and dosages according to current guidelines are recommended. Combination antimicrobial therapy or antibiotic courses longer than 4 weeks are not recommended. Patients who attribute their symptoms to chronic Lyme on doubtful basis should be offered a thorough and systematic diagnostic approach, and an open and respectful dialogue.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Lyme Disease / diagnosis*
  • Lyme Disease / therapy*