Background: Lyme disease (LD) is an infectious multi-system illness caused by the bacterial genus Borrelia and spread by bites of infected ticks. Although most patients are successfully treated by timely antibiotic therapy, it is broadly accepted that a sizeable number of patients experience treatment failure and continue to suffer long-term, debilitating symptoms, including pain, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction and other symptoms. This is known as post-treatment LD (PTLD), for which diagnosis is not standardized and treatment remains controversial. The prevalence and societal burden of PTLD is unknown.
Methods: In an effort to help characterize the LD landscape, we estimated the number of PTLD cases in the US in 2016 and 2020 using Monte-Carlo simulation techniques, publically-available demographic datasets, uncertainty in the inputs and realistic assumptions about incidence and treatment failure rates.
Results: Depending on the input assumptions, PTLD prevalence estimates for 2016 ranged from 69,011 persons (95% CI 51,796 to 89,312) to 1,523,869 (CI 1,268,634 to 1,809,416). Prevalence in 2020 is predicted to be higher than 2016, and may be as high as 1,944,189 (CI 1,619,988 to 2,304,147) cases.
Conclusions: The cumulative prevalence of PLTD in the United States is estimated to be high and continues to increase. These findings will be of interest to epidemiologists and health economists studying disease burden in the US and elsewhere, and justify funding to study PTLD diagnosis and treatment.