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Ask the Doctor: Can ME/CFS Be Caused by Lyme Disease?

  [ 25 votes ]   [ 3 Comments ]
By Dr. David S. Bell • • October 12, 2015

Ask the Doctor: Can ME/CFS Be Caused by Lyme Disease?. David S. Bell, MD, is one of the world’s leading experts on ME/CFS, and is a pioneer in its diagnosis and treatment.
David S. Bell, MD, is one of the world’s leading experts on ME/CFS, and is a pioneer in its diagnosis and treatment.
By David S. Bell MD

Question: 1) Can Lyme disease result in permanent ME, even if all signs of the bacteria are gone? Can the Borellia bacteria that causes Lyme Disease also cause ME? Which is worse: severe ME, or severe Lyme Disease?

Answer: These three questions all revolve around chronic Lyme disease, and will be answered differently by every ME/CFS specialist you ask. It is a subject that I had thought about a great deal, and I am aware that is a great deal of contention in the opinions. But with the understanding that we do not know all the answers, I will put forth my opinion.

In 1986 we had, over a two-year period in Lyndonville, New York, a large group of children and adults who came down with what we are now calling ME/CFS, or perhaps SEID1. Central to this outbreak was a group of children who suddenly became ill in October, 19852. Among their many symptoms was very prominent lymph node tenderness, and after consulting with the New York State Department of Health and the CDC, it was decided to biopsy the armpit lymph nodes in a group of these children. Although none of them had the characteristic Lyme disease rash, it was my thought that they could have Lyme disease, although the appearance of a cluster outbreak argued against this, as did the rare prevalence of Lyme disease in this area. The families signed the permissions and I explained to the children what was to happen, and one day we performed an axillary (armpit) lymph node biopsy on all eight children.

The tissue was carefully handled and divided into portions to study as much as possible on them. The standard tests were all normal, and routine viral and bacterial cultures were negative. All samples were sent for silver staining, at that time, the ‘state of the art’ to look for Lyme disease, and one lymph node came back positive. Further analysis on this positive sample was not done. Based on this positive, I treated the children with doxycycline which appeared to have a beneficial result. At a later time, a double blind study with doxycycline and placebo did not show benefits. To my regret, none of this was submitted for publication.

In the intervening years, I saw many persons who had been diagnosed with chronic Lyme. The symptom pattern, along with the onset pattern, response to antibiotics, and questionable laboratory results led me to believe that there was no difference between ME/CFS and chronic Lyme. I have no doubt, however, that some persons with ME/CFS have their disease initiated by the Lyme organism.

This brings us to the underlying infectious organism that causes ME/CFS. I had the good fortune to study persons with post Q fever debility syndrome under the guidance of Professor Barry Marmion when I delivered to him some raw milk I was suspicious of. He had been following abbatoir (slaughterhouse) workers with established Q fever who did not become well with the standard treatment3. In 2004 the CDC and Australian government did a prospective study looking to see who became ill following infection with Q fever, Ross River virus and Epstein-Barr virus in a well-designed and carefully controlled study4. One year after infection with one of these agents 6% developed CFS by the Fukuda criteria5. Of the many remarkable things in this study, it was 6% of those with EBV, 6% with RRV, and 6% with Q fever, three completely different organisms. To me, this meant that many infections could initiate the process of ME/CFS, including infection with the Lyme organism. That is why over the past twenty years we have been talking of enterovirus, mycoplasma, and many other organisms. I have seen patients with ME/CFS following Histoplasmosis, Psittacosis, and other strange bugs.

However, in my thinking, ME/CFS is defined by the symptoms, and not the initiating organism. If the disease turns out to be autoimmune6, this makes very good sense. It is as if several people got splinters, would we call them different injuries if one person had a maple wood splinter and another oak?

So, I believe that chronic Lyme is ME/CFS that is initiated by the Lyme organism. Whether this is true or not, we should know in a couple of years with the research that is bound to follow Drs. Fluge and Mella’s discovery. If this is true then the three questions above are easy to answer.


1. Beyond Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Redefining an Illness. 2015.

2. Bell K, Cookfair D, Bell D, Reese P, Cooper L. Risk factors associated with chronic fatigue syndrome in a cluster of pediatric cases. Rev Inf Dis. 1991; 13(Suppl 1): S32-8.

3. Marmion B, et al. Q Fever persistence of antigenic non-viable cell residues of Coxiella burnetti in the host - implication for post Q fever infection fatigue syndrome and other chronic sequelae. QJM. 2009; 102(10): 673-84.

4. Hickie I, Davenport T, Wakefield D, Vollmer-Conna U, Cameron B, Vernon S, et al. Post-infective and chronic fatigue syndromes precipitated by viral and non-viral pathogens: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2006; 333.

5. Fukuda K, Straus S, Hickie I, Sharpe M, Dobbins J, Komaroff A, et al. The chronic fatigue syndrome: a comprehensive approach to its definition and study. Ann Intern Med. 1994; 121: 953-9.

6. Fluge O, Risa K, Lunde S, Alme K, Rekeland I, Sapkota D, et al. B-lymphocyte depletion in myalgic encephalopathy/chronic fatigue syndrome. An open-label phase II study with Rituximab maintenance treatment. PLoS ONE. 2015; 10(7).

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Article Comments Post a Comment

Yes, Lyme is one cause
Posted by: PowerOfNow
Oct 13, 2015
Thank you for this article.
One common thread among these diseases is immune suppression. There can be different causes. Septic shock leading to post-sepsis syndrome including poat Q fever syndrome, fungal infections from contaminated vaccines and other sources, and some diseases like lyme disease (The surface proteins like OspA from the lyme bacteria suppress the immune system much like fungi do.)
The symptoms of fungal infections, chronic lyme disease, gulf war illness (Expired Anthrax vaccines which were redated and used. Fungal growth in the vials led to immune suppression.), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, post-sepsis syndrome, post Q fever syndrome are virtually interchangeable. This is why all these diseases are "controversial". They are all diseases of immune suppression with chronic opportunistic infections. People may test negative in antibody tests because of the weak immune response. The weak response makes vaccines dangerous and they do not want to reveal the widespread injury from vaccinations.

There can be multiple causes for a single symptom like ME/CFS. Systemic exertion intolerance disease is basically one debilitating symptom, major fatigue with severe exhaustion if you overdue it. EBV, HHV-6, mycoplasma infections can each cause severe exhaustion and they can persist for years. It one assumes it must have one cause then each will be rejected as the cause even though chronic infections exist in most ME/CFS patients.
Reply Reply

YES - it can
Posted by: ospA
Oct 26, 2015
There is massive evidence of how Borrelia and other fungi - immundertrykkere leading to viral reactivation. Meanwhile, there are certainly many other fungi - immunudertrykkere as vaccines, molds and some other infections like eg Bartonella, candida etc.. Fungi do we need in the body but ospA we do not ..

Through a massive compilation of published scientific research and public record documents, SASH makes a convincing case for Lyme Disease, ME/CFS, Gulf War Illness, Fibromyalgia and Autism sharing a common mechanism of fungal induced immunosuppression, known to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as "Post
Sepsis Syndrome." They report that such immunosuppression leads to the chronic reactivation in the central nervous system of multiple viruses such as Epstein Barr Virus, Cytomegalovirus and HHV-6, leading to cancers and an AIDS like disease. SASH also shares evidence that the interaction of fungi with attenuated viruses in vaccine vials causes the reactivation of those viruses and ultimately, the diseases they are meant to prevent.

You should realy read about how LYMErix vaccine created the same multisystemic disease.. YES it contained ospA..


Help Wanted
Posted by: PatientAdvocate
Oct 27, 2015
We need a top-notch investigative journalist, and a congressional hearing. The two-tier lyme testing is fraudulent.
The only valid method is described in US patent 5,618,533.
Will you help us?
On the following link is a great explainer of the disease, and the crimes involved, with vetted evidence towards the end of the blog. #ImmuneSuppression #OspA
"Help Wanted: Lyme – AIDS 2.0"
Reply Reply
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