A ‘huge question’ about Lyme: Why do some patients report lingering symptoms?

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

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Why do up to 25 percent of people treated for Lyme disease report lingering symptoms, lasting from days to years?

Many Lyme sufferers, activists, and some doctors are convinced that the bacteria that cause the disease can, especially if not caught early, evade antibiotics and the body’s immune system by burrowing into joints, the brain, and other tissue to wreak sustained havoc.

Most infectious disease specialists, however, say that there is a lack of convincing evidence for this persistent infection and that a month or less of antibiotics usually knocks the infection from the body. They suggest other causes, including another illness or reinfection through a second tick bite.

Underlying the emotional impasse is this simple fact: The Lyme bacteria have rarely been found in treated patients.

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