The Effect of Artesunate on Short-Term Memory in Lyme Borreliosis

Med Hypotheses. 2017 Aug;105:4-5. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2017.06.015. Epub 2017 Jun 24.


Lyme borreliosis is associated with memory deficits. While this may be related to cerebral infection by Borrelia bacteria, it may also be caused by concomitant co-infection by Babesia protozoa. The anti-malarial artemisinin-derivative artesunate has been shown to be effective against a number of Babesia species and to have efficacy against human cerebral malaria. We hypothesised that concomitant administration of artesunate in Lyme borreliosis patients would help alleviate the severity of self-reported short-term memory impairment. This hypothesis was tested in a small pilot study in which patients were treated with both an intravenous antibiotic and oral artesunate (20mg four times per day); treatment was associated with a reduction in the severity of short-term memory difficulties (P≃0.08). In light of these findings, we recommend that a formal randomised, placebo-controlled study be carried out.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antimalarials / administration & dosage
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use*
  • Artemisinins / administration & dosage
  • Artemisinins / therapeutic use*
  • Artesunate
  • Babesiosis / complications
  • Babesiosis / drug therapy
  • Coinfection / drug therapy
  • Coinfection / psychology
  • Humans
  • Lyme Disease / complications
  • Lyme Disease / drug therapy*
  • Lyme Disease / psychology*
  • Memory, Short-Term / drug effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Pilot Projects


  • Antimalarials
  • Artemisinins
  • Artesunate