Lyme disease is a very complicated and difficult disease and it has been found to be notoriously hard to diagnose and treat. Part of the reason for the complications of Lyme disease is its ability to mimic neurological conditions like ALS, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease, adding to its diagnosing difficulties and leading to most patients remaining undiagnosed. However, new evidence could suggest that Lyme disease’s spirochetal bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi maybe trigger the development of Parkinson’s disease. There have been many documented cases of patients with Lyme disease developing Parkinson’s after they contracted the Borrelia bacteria but resent solid evidence for the correlation between the two has been found.
An autopsy was done in 2001 on an elderly patient that died from respiratory failure and markers correlated with striatonigral degeneration (SND), a multiple system atrophy (MSA) sub-type that leads to Parkinson’s, where found. In addition to SND, the autopsy also confirmed that elderly man had Lyme disease and due to the advanced age of the elderly man it was very unlikely the SND had developed independently of the Lyme disease bacterium. This was the first autopsy confirming the correlation between Borrelia and SND and suggest that Lyme may be a direct cause of SND or indirect cause through a compromised immune system.
Studies have found that patients with Parkinson’s disease have a larger rate of infections like Borrelia and other pathogens like h. pylori, Epstein-Barr, and herpes simplex virus-1. Also, higher infection loads, like that found in chronic Lyme disease patients, cause increased inflammatory markers and more indicators that have been correlated with SND and Parkinson’s disease. Researchers theorize that Lyme may be inducing Parkinson’s in those with genetic markers and those who have been exposed to certain environmental stimuli like heavy metals. With the information gathered by the autopsy of the elderly man and the information previously studied, a better view of the possible correlation between Lyme disease and Parkinson’s has been illuminated aiding in our understanding of Lyme disease and hopefully helping in future treatment.