Many people who have (or suspect they may have) late stage or chronic Lyme disease end up with debilitating joint pain and even full blown Lyme arthritis. And for some of these people, the symptoms do not even block antibiotic treatment. But now, researchers seem to have identified a potential cause, which means that more effective treatment may not be far behind.
In a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers discovered that as Lyme-causing bacteria ( Borrelia burgdorferi ) are multiplied, it casts a cellular component called peptidoglycan which triggers a unique inflammatory response in the body leading to symptoms of joint pain and Lyme arthritis.
Researchers identified peptidoglycan in samples of synovial fluid (aka joint fluid) from patients with confirmed cases of Lyme disease whose symptoms did not respond to antibiotic treatment. "We can actually detect peptidoglycan in the synovial fluid of the affected, inflamed joints in patients who have all symptoms of Lyme arthritis, but no longer have a clear, active infection," said study author and biochemistry assistant Brandon Jutras, Ph. D., in a press release.
To confirm that peptidoglycan could actually contribute to arthritis alone, the researchers purified the synovial fluid samples (to eliminate all other bacterial components) and injected them into mice. Within 24 hours, the mice experienced dramatic joint inflammation, indicating that peptidoglycan was due.
Because peptidoglycan persists in the synovial fluid and is not easily eliminated, the immune system may continue to mount an inflammatory response to it ̵
This discovery is good news as it opens the door to more targeted treatments for late-stage Lyme arthritis symptoms (and potentially other late-stage Lyme symptoms). Jutras and other researchers are now investigating ways to destroy peptidoglycan or counteract the body's response to it.
This discovery can also potentially help confirm Lyme disease diagnoses. While all bacteria contain some form of peptidoglycan, the type found in Lyme bacteria has a unique chemical structure, so physicians can theoretically test a patient's synovial fluid for the presence of this particular peptidoglycan as a means of confirming an unconditional Lyme diagnostic. blood sample on. 19659008]