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Only little is known about the epidemiology of
Lyme borreliosis in Germany. As an example, it is still unclear if there are regional differences in the incidence of
Lyme disease in general or of certain clinical manifestations like
Lyme arthritis. Moreover, standardization of diagnostic or therapeutic procedures does not exist. Therefore, a Germany-wide questionnaire-based survey was conducted in order to achieve more epidemiological data and to obtain more information about the diagnostic and therapeutic approaches of general practitioners and specialists.
A self-designed questionnaire was distributed along with two editions of the journal “Deutsches Arzteblatt” (which is delivered to every physician in Germany) and additionally by a pharmaceutical company. During the collection period from March 1, 1998 to February 28, 1999, patients with
Lyme disease were reported and information was given about site of infection, diagnostic procedures, clinical symptoms, treatment, and outcome.
Altogether 3935 patients were reported. Their mean age was 43.4 years with the peak incidences around the ages of 10 and 60 years. 37.3% of the questionnaires were sent in by general practitioners, 17.6% by dermatologists, 15.7% by pediatricians, 9.7% by internists, and 2.7% by neurologists. 83% of the patients did not have a special infecion risk. The most frequent clinical
Lyme manifestation was erythema migrans (EM), which occurred in 50.9% of the patients. 21.3% suffered from general symptoms. Of special interest, 24.5% of the patients had
Lyme arthritis (14.7% mon- or oligoarthritis, 9.8% polyarthritis). Therefore, arthritis was more frequently reported than neuroborreliosis (18.4%). Only 16% of the neuroborreliosis patients and 32% of the arthritis patients remembered having had an EM. 189 patients (4.8%) with lymphadenosis cutis benigna and 100 patients (2.5%) with acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans were reported. In 80.4% of the patients, positive
Lyme serology was detected. In a few cases, the diagnosis was established by isolation of borreliae, PCR or histology. 3754 patients were treated by antibiotics. The most frequently used compounds were doxycycline (50.4%), followed by ceftriaxone (22.4%), amoxicillin (13.6%), penicillin (7%), and erythromycin (4.2%) with differences depending on clinical manifestations and specialization of the prescribing physician. In less than 10% of the cases, not evaluated or recommended therapeutic procedures were performed.
Lyme disease is endemic throughuot Germany. The most frequent manifestations are EM, followed by
Lyme arthritis and neuroborreliosis. Less than one third of patients suffering from disseminated or chronic
Lyme disease remembered an EM. Most of the physicians taking part in this survey follow treatment recommendations concerning choice of antibiotics and treatment durations.