So, yeah…now yet another cause of autoimmune diseases. Sucks, huh?
But what is the underpinning of how Lyme can cause autoimmune disease?
It starts with a tick bite from a Lyme-carrying tick. Lyme disease isn’t actually caused by the tick, but by a micro-organism that it carries called Borrelia Burgdorferi. This micro-organism is primarily found in the Ixodes deer tick.
The most common symptom that people who get infected with Lyme are flu-like symptoms. Some experience a bullseye rash referred to as erythema migrans. Most people can overcome this illness with a course of antibiotics, typically doxycycline 100mg twice a day for 2-3 weeks and have no long-lasting problems.
However, in some people chronic symptoms persist. Some of these include joint aches, particularly affecting the knees. Others include brain fog, chronic fatigue, and chronic joint aches, to name a few.
In the initial infection your body’s Th1 and Th17 immune response activates. The Th1 response is responsible for attacking intracellular infections such as bacteria and viruses whereas the Th17 response is responsible for eradicating extracellular infections.
In people who clear the infection both the Th1 and Th17 responses eventually subside (“convalescent phase”) and they don’t have long-term problems. However, in the subset of patients that have persisting symptoms their Th17 response stays active, while their Th1 response may start to lower.
Interleukin-23, which is responsible for maintaining the actions of the Th17 immune response, stays active, thus Th17 remains active. Chronic, long-term Th17 activation leads to changes in the patient’s immune system. These changes ultimately set the stage for the development of auto antibodies.
So, yeah, Lyme can induce autoimmune reactions 🙁