Chronic Lyme Disease and Co-infections: Differential Diagnosis

Walter Berghoff*
Practice of Internal Medicine, Rheinbach, 53359, Germany

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© Walter Berghoff; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Practice of Internal Medicine, Telemannstrasse D, 53359 Rheinbach, Germany; Tel: + 49 2226 2041; Fax: + 49 2226 2044; E-mail:


In Lyme disease concurrent infections frequently occur. The clinical and pathological impact of co-infections was first recognized in the 1990th, i.e. approximately ten years after the discovery of Lyme disease. Their pathological synergism can exacerbate Lyme disease or induce similar disease manifestations. Co-infecting agents can be transmitted together with Borrelia burgdorferi by tick bite resulting in multiple infections but a fraction of co-infections occur independently of tick bite. Clinically relevant co-infections are caused by Bartonella species, Yersinia enterocolitica, Chlamydophila pneumoniae, Chlamydia trachomatis, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae. In contrast to the USA, human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA) and babesiosis are not of major importance in Europe. Infections caused by these pathogens in patients not infected by Borrelia burgdorferi can result in clinical symptoms similar to those occurring in Lyme disease. This applies particularly to infections caused by Bartonella henselae, Yersinia enterocolitica, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Chlamydia trachomatis primarily causes polyarthritis. Chlamydophila pneumoniae not only causes arthritis but also affects the nervous system and the heart, which renders the differential diagnosis difficult. The diagnosis is even more complex when co-infections occur in association with Lyme disease. Treatment recommendations are based on individual expert opinions. In antibiotic therapy, the use of third generation cephalosporins should only be considered in cases of Lyme disease. The same applies to carbapenems, which however are used occasionally in infections caused by Yersinia enterocolitica. For the remaining infections predominantly tetracyclines and macrolides are used. Quinolones are for alternative treatment, particularly gemifloxacin. For Bartonella henselae, Chlamydia trachomatis, and Chlamydophila pneumoniae the combination with rifampicin is recommended. Erythromycin is the drug of choice for Campylobacter jejuni.

Keywords: Bartonellosis, Borellia burgdorferi, Chlamydophila pneumoniae, Chlamydia trachomatis, co-infection, Lyme disease, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, treatment, Yersinia enterocolitica.