Co-infections Basics

Lyme and Cancer Services

Ticks that transmit Lyme disease also may be carriers of co-infections. Research has discovered more than a dozen tick-borne diseases in the Unites States, with new ones continually being identified. A single tick can carry multiple diseases. It is rare that a patient with Lyme disease is not also infected with co-infections. In Lyme epidemic areas, it is estimated that the rate of co-infections in people with Lyme is 39%-60%. There is not a lot known about co-infections, contributing to the complexity of tick-borne diseases. The presence of co-infections adds an additional layer of severity to the disease and results in acute symptoms, treatment complications, unreliable testing, an increased rate of relapsing, and a longer recovery.

Common Co-infections and Secondary Infections:


Description: Protozoa that invade, infect, and kill the red blood cells

Symptoms: Malaria-like illness, fatigue, crawling sensation in skin, drenching sweats, fever, chills, weakness, weight loss, electromagnetic field sensitivity, nausea, abdominal pain, imbalance, diarrhea, cough, shortness of breath, headache, muscle and joint pain, dark urine or blood in urine. Complications include liver problems, hemolytic anemia, and very low blood pressure.

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Description: Composed of gram-negative, aerobic bacteria. It is an intracellular organism that multiplies in red blood cells. It is commonly carried in cats and can cause cat-scratch disease.

Symptoms: Swollen lymph nodes, severe pain in the tibia and soles, vertigo, ear pain, sore throat, anorexia, psychiatric symptoms, and an unusual streaked rash. Suspect Bartonella when neurological symptoms are out of proportion to general symptoms.

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Description: Not a tick-borne disease, but should be considered a secondary infection, as it frequently exists as a systemic fungal infection in Lyme patients. It is naturally occurring yeast that lives within the human digestive system, mucous membranes, and skin.

Symptoms: Increased environmental sensitivities, gastrointestinal issues, genitourinary infections, respiratory problems

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Clostridium Difficile (C Diff)

Description: A serious bacterial infection of the gut. It is a common infection for patients to acquire who have been on antibiotics.

Symptoms: Diarrhea, cramping, flu-like symptoms, nausea

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Colorado Tick Fever

Description: Viral infection that infects hematopoietic cells, particularly erythrocytes

Symptoms: High fever, chills, severe muscle aches, back pain, headache (especially behind the eyes), light sensitivities, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

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Description: Gram-negative bacteria that invade white blood cells

Symptoms: Anemia, fever, chills, photophobia, headache, muscle pain, rigors, gastrointestinal symptoms, low WBC, low platelet count, anorexia, fatigue, elevated liver enzymes

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Human Parasites

Description: Generally not tick-borne, but often share the same symptoms and can affect the success of Lyme treatment if not addressed. Common names: Roundworm, Pinworm, Schistosome fluke, Hookworm, Beef worm, Pork worm, Tapeworm, and many more.

Symptoms: Intestinal complications, fatigue, skin disorders, mood disorders

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Description: A genus of small bacteria, which hides intracellularly and invades multiple organs and systems. Often found in the oral cavity, gut flora, lungs, reproductive tract and superficial body parts.

Symptoms: Fatigue, headaches, muscle pain and soreness, nausea, gastrointestinal problems, joint pain and soreness, reproductive tract infections, lymph node pain, cognitive difficulties, depression, breathing problems

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Powassan Encephalitis

Description: Flavivirus that invades and infects the brain

Symptoms: Encephalitis, convulsions, disorientation, fever, headache, pain behind the eyes, light sensitivity, muscle weakness, seizures, partial coma and paralysis, neurological problems

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Protomyxzoa Rheumatica

Description: It is a protozoan (parasitic) infection. It is known as the Fry bug, and it is protected by biofilms, which contributes to chronic infection.

Symptoms: Malaria like symptoms, sweats, chills, aching body pain, often attacks the nervous system

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Q Fever

Description: Caused by Coxiella burnetti

Symptoms: High fever, pneumonia, endocarditis, abnormal liver functions

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Relapsing Fever

Description: Spirochetal infection with frequent episodes of fever

Symptoms: High fever, sudden chills, eye inflammation, coughing, jaundice, petechial rash

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Description: Gram- negative bacilli that are obligate intracellular parasites.

Symptoms: Nausea, abdominal pain, encephalitis, hypotension, rash, flulike symptoms, acute renal failure, and respiratory distress

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Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Description: Rickettsia rickettsii parasite that invades the cells lining the heart and blood vessels

Symptoms: High fever, severe headache (especially behind the eyes), maculopapular skin rash.

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Tick Paralysis

Description: Toxic reaction to saliva from female ticks

Symptoms: Paralysis begins in legs and spreads throughout the body within hours. Reversed when tick is removed.

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Description: Caused by a bacterium Francisella tularensis

Symptoms: fever, swollen lymph nodes, fever, chills, fatigue, inflamed eyes

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