Breaking down a recent Lyme study on chronic inflammation

By Dr. Kyle Warren

Edited by Meghan Feir Walker

Many patients with Lyme disease have neurological symptoms such as anxiety, brain fog, insomnia, burning, tingling, and chronic pain. The best way to improve these symptoms is to understand where they come from. 

We’re going to break down a recent research article that may help us understand another reason why you may be experiencing persisting symptoms. If you know the source, then coming up with targeted solutions is possible.

In January 2022, a telling study was conducted that will intrigue anyone familiar with or suffering from Lyme disease. We’ll break down the study’s main points, the methods they used to come to their conclusions, and how their findings affect everyone in the Lyme community.  

To watch the correlating video, click on the image below:

Lyme neuroinflammation

Breaking down this recent discovery: Dead Lyme still causes neuroinflammation

Two researchers, Geetha Parthasarathy and Shiva Kumar Goud Gadila, recently uncovered a crucial discovery and published their results in Scientific Reports.

In the study, they covered the neuropathogenicity of non-viable Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease spirochete). We know that Lyme bacteria can cause neuroinflammation when it’s alive, but can this bacteria also cause inflammation when it’s already dead? That’s what these researchers were determined to uncover. 

First, let’s break down the word “neuropathogenicity.” 

  • “Neuro” relates to your neurological or nervous system which includes organs like the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and ganglia.  
  • “Patho” is short for pathology, which is a science that delves into the causes and effects of diseases. 
  • The last portion of the word, “genicity” relates to the word “genesis,” which means beginning or origin. 

In other words, how did these neurological problems start? What is causing this inflammation throughout the nervous system?

What is particularly interesting about this study is they compared living Lyme bacteria with non-living (non-viable) Lyme bacteria. 

The researchers found an astonishing revelation. 

“We show in this study that non-viable (dead) Borrelia burgdorferi can cause neurological inflammation.” 

They went on to find out that the dead Lyme bacteria created more inflammation than the living Lyme bacteria. 

“The bacterial fragments often elicited higher levels of inflammatory mediators than the live bacteria at the same equivalent concentration. This is likely due to the fact that upon lysis, multiple ligands such as lipoproteins, flagellins, DNA, RNA, and others, are released, which can stimulate several TLR receptors, many more than intact bacteria.”

Lyme neurological symptoms
Dead Lyme bacteria can even cause more neuroinflammation than when it’s alive.

Neurological symptoms can occur in the brain and peripheral nerves

Neurological symptoms of Lyme disease can occur in your brain and peripheral nerves. In other words, you can experience neurological symptoms all over your body. 

In the study, they demonstrated that “non-viable remnants of Borrelia burgdorferi are pathogenic to both the peripheral nerves and the central nerves.” This means you can get nerve symptoms–tingling, pain, burning problems with our peripheral nerves. You can also get central nerve issues, like anxiety, balance, and sleep problems coming from the inflammation that’s coming from dead Borrelia burgdorferi. 

They also found the “Induction of several pro-algesic mediators in both central and peripheral nerves implications for chronic pain.” “Algesic” means pain, and “pro-algesic mediators” means these dead bugs, along with the live bacteria, can also cause chronic pain problems. That’s a big deal if you’re suffering from chronic pain as part of having chronic Lyme. 

In one sense, when it comes to inflammation, sometimes Lyme is more dangerous dead than alive. You can experience inflammatory symptoms long after these bugs have been killed. 

Does that mean you shouldn’t try to kill it? No, but this insight provides important information that all Lyme practitioners and patients should be well aware of as they treat this illness. 

One of the most telling statements from the study said, “Persistence of symptoms in some patients post-treatment indicates that in a subset of these patients, in some people B. burgdorferi fragments in the nervous system could be the cause. Such antibiotic refractive conditions need novel anti-inflammatory approaches for therapeutics.” 

We regularly get new patients who have been on antibiotics for years, sometimes even decades. This clearly hasn’t been working comprehensively for them and, in turn, has caused extra damage. Discovering what is still driving your inflammation is a huge component of healing from chronic Lyme disease and other tickborne infections.  

This clue can help you uncover the source of your inflammation.
This clue can help you uncover the source of your inflammation.

How they did it: A clue to curing yourself

Let’s take a look at how this study was conducted.

Control groups were used and included injections with nothing in it, injections of living B. burgdorferi (Lyme disease spirochete), and injections of dead B. burgdorferi.  

The researchers took both forms of Lyme disease and inserted them into the dorsal root ganglion to get to a peripheral nerve. A ganglion is a cluster of neurons in a dorsal root of a spinal nerve. The reason they chose this area is that the cell bodies of sensory neurons are located in the dorsal root ganglia.

They also inserted dead and live Lyme into frontal cortex tissue to see if they would cause central nervous system inflammation. 

They compared and contrasted the groups by measuring 26 markers of inflammation. 

26 inflammation markers that can be checked for neurological symptoms in Lyme disease.

The image above shows some of the inflammatory chemicals they were testing and analyzing. 

Inflammation testing for Lyme patients: Why your doctor misses this and calls you “normal”

I wish doctors would test this extensively with their patients. Unfortunately, when you go to your doctor, they measure one or two inflammation markers. The most common inflammation marker they test is C-reactive protein. It’s a good test that was created in 1930, but it’s not comprehensive enough to be the only tested marker. It’s also silly not to update methods for nearly 100 years, especially when other markers can be examined as well. 

Only testing one or two markers is not a thorough look at how the immune system is functioning. In order to really see the causes of inflammation and inflammation levels, you have to run more complete inflammatory panels. 

Measuring inflammation markers can help you discover the source of your symptoms.
Measuring inflammation markers can help you discover the source of your symptoms.

Measuring inflammation markers

When working with patients, especially chronic Lyme or post-treatment Lyme patients, practitioners need to measure inflammation with these kinds of in-depth panels. They need to be running inflammation patterns to see where a patient’s immune system is stuck. 

When your doctor runs one marker test and proceeds to say they can’t find any inflammation, it just means other tests need to be run. Just because your doctor may have said they have run every test, I promise you they haven’t. We see that playing out all the time. They run basic fundamental testing and the inflammation test needs to be upgraded and more in-depth. 

Thankfully, this kind of testing has become more available. 

We are able to run at least six inflammation tests in our office. Oftentimes we’re running 10-16 markers on patients. This has been a huge upgrade for our clinic in understanding how our patients’ immune systems are doing, what state they’re in, and what that means for helping them fight these chronic problems. 

We want to know why your inflammation response is constantly running. A thorough panel can provide answers more accurately. It’s not a one-test stop. It’s a compilation of tests for your immune system.

There is no doubt that inadequate inflammation testing leaves people stuck and miserable. It confounds their doctors, making them think their patients must be fine, and leaves patients feeling invalidated and alone in their suffering. 

Key takeaways

Conclusion: Key takeaways for healing from neurological symptoms of Lyme disease 

Here are our key takeaways from our breakdown of the recent study “Neuropathogenicity of non-viable Borrelia burgdorferi ex vivo”:

  • Dead Lyme bacteria can cause even more neuroinflammation than when it’s alive.
  • Non-viable (dead) remnants of B.burgdorferi are pathogenic to both the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system tissues.
  • Dead bugs in your body can cause chronic pain conditions and a host of other neurological symptoms.
  • Persisting symptoms in some post-treatment Lyme patients can be a result of B. burgdorferi fragments affecting the nervous system. Antibiotics won’t help in these cases.
  • This can be the cause for why some patients who have already been treated extensively still have persisting inflammatory symptoms.
  • More comprehensive inflammation tests can and should be run to discover the state of the immune system.
  • Patients need equal attention to cleaning out the body and calming the immune system down with anti-inflammatory therapeutics.

Even in this study, the researchers have found that antibiotics alone cannot solve this problem because the bugs are already dead. You don’t need to use a killer any longer. But what should you do instead?  

In future articles, we’ll highlight different methods of testing for neuroinflammation. We’ll also discuss a more holistic approach on HOW to reduce neurological symptoms of Lyme disease by adding anti-inflammatory and detox support to your health protocol.

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