News and Events

Longer-term antibiotic treatment no benefit for persistent Lyme symptoms

Patients with persistent symptoms attributed to Lyme disease do not benefit from longer-term antibiotic treatment, is the conclusion of a study by researchers of the Radboudumc and Leiden University in which prof. dr. Andrea Evers and dr. Henriët van Middendorp were involved. The study was published in the renowned The New England Journal of Medicine.

A minority of patients who suffered from Lyme disease get chronic complaints over time. Much is unclear about the treatment of these complaints. The PLEASE study assessed whether a longer-term antibiotic treatment has positive outcomes for this group of patients.

No effect on quality of life

After an initial antibiotic treatment of two weeks, the 280 participants in the study got either an antibiotic or placebo for twelve weeks. They filled in questionnaires about complaints, fitness, and quality of life before and several times after treatment.

The researchers found no differences between the scores of the groups at any of these times. Hence, for patients with persistent symptoms a longer-term treatment with antibiotics had no positive effects on quality of life compared with a shorter-term treatment.

Non-pharmacological treatment

With these results in mind, the question is which treatment can be useful for chronic lyme symptoms. According to health psychologists prof. dr. Andrea Evers and dr. Henriët van Middendorp, researchers should now focus on the effects of non-pharmacological treatments, such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

You can read the article on the NEJM website.

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, transferred by the bite of an infected tick. What usually follows is a short antibiotics treatment that is successful in most cases. However, approximately ten per cent of infected patients develop symptoms such as fatigue, pain, and concentration problems after a while. These patients sometimes get a long-term antibiotics treatment, although only a small part still has a clear infection. This study has made clear that there is no evidence for an effect of this type of treatment for patients without such an infection.

Back to our news and events archive