Nonspecific symptoms following infection with Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato: A retrospective cohort study

Ticks Tick Borne Dis. 2022 Jan;13(1):101851. doi: 10.1016/j.ttbdis.2021.101851. Epub 2021 Oct 10.


Whether infection with Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (sl) can cause nonspecific symptoms is a matter of controversy. We investigated whether individuals infected with B. burgdorferi sl develop unspecific symptoms more frequently than non-infected controls. Eighty-nine persons having presented with B. burgdorferi sl infection between 2015 and 2019 were asked to participate. The infection was defined as erythema migrans diagnosed either in the course of a previous study, during medical visits in the outpatient department, or as seroconversion in asymptomatic subjects. The control group consisted of 85 seronegative individuals without erythema migrans in the past. About two and a half years later, participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire with a list of nonspecific symptoms. The data of 37 persons with previous Borrelia infection and 49 uninfected controls were available for analysis. Muscle pain was significantly (P = 0.040) more frequent in the control group. Fatigue occurred more often in the infected group, but this was not statistically significant (P = 0.109). Likewise, the distribution of other symptoms did not differ considerably. The analysis revealed no difference in the frequency of symptoms of persons who had EM or asymptomatic Borrelia infection 2 years prior assessment in comparison to persons without Borrelia infection.

Keywords: Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato; Lyme borreliosis; Nonspecific symptoms; Tick.

MeSH terms

  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi*
  • Erythema Chronicum Migrans*
  • Humans
  • Lyme Disease* / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies