Lyme and Other Tick Borne Diseases

If loss of appetite, weight loss and/or anorexia is a problem after a tick bite, think Lyme, Babesiosis and Brucellosis as a possible cause. Other vector borne diseases (and typical non-vector borne diseases) can cause these symptoms also.

Quote- "Lyme disease is known as the "great imitator", as it may present as a variety of psychiatric or neurologic disorders including anorexia nervosa. "A 12 year old boy with confirmed Lyme arthritis treated with oral antibiotics subsequently became depressed and anorectic. After being admitted to a psychiatric hospital with the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, he was noted to have positive serologic tests for Borrelia burgdorferi." Link Here

“Bell’s Palsy of the Gut” and Other GI Manifestations of Lyme and Associated Diseases

By Dr. Virginia Sherr

"Newly discovered Lyme- endangered cerebral hormones and renegade cytokines regulate brain-gut interactions thus initiating behavioral tendencies such as anorexia or a failure of satiety with resultant obesity."

“In 5%–23% of patients with early Lyme borreliosis, there can be gastrointestinal symptoms such as anorexia, nausea, vomiting, severe abdominal pain, hepatitis, hepatomegaly and splenomegaly. Diarrhea occurs but is seen in only 2% of cases” (14).

“Melanocortins are small protein molecules that carry messages between nerve cells in the brain. They are involved in regulating a variety of complex behaviors, including social interactions, stress responses and—most importantly in this context—food intake. So it is easy to see how interference with them could cause anorexia and bulimia . . ."

"Brian Fallon, MD, and other psychiatrists have long noted that when their neuro-Lyme patients are treated with antibiotics for the underlying chronic Bb infection, there is significant improvement in eating disorder symptoms (55)"

Link Here to Above Article Quotes- “Bell’s Palsy of the Gut” and Other GI Manifestations of Lyme and Associated Diseases, by Dr. Virginia Sherr

Articles & Abstracts


Am J Psychiatry. 1994 Nov;151(11):1571-83.

Lyme disease: a neuropsychiatric illness.

Fallon BA1, Nields JA.

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York.



Lyme disease is a multisystemic illness that can affect the central nervous system (CNS), causing neurologic and psychiatric symptoms. The goal of this article is to familiarize psychiatrists with this spirochetal illness.


Relevant books, articles, and abstracts from academic conferences were perused, and additional articles were located through computerized searches and reference sections from published articles.


Up to 40% of patients with Lyme disease develop neurologic involvement of either the peripheral or central nervous system. Dissemination to the CNS can occur within the first few weeks after skin infection. Like syphilis, Lyme disease may have a latency period of months to years before symptoms of late infection emerge. Early signs include meningitis, encephalitis, cranial neuritis, and radiculoneuropathies. Later, encephalomyelitis and encephalopathy may occur. A broad range of psychiatric reactions have been associated with Lyme disease including paranoia, dementia, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, major depression, anorexia nervosa, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Depressive states among patients with late Lyme disease are fairly common, ranging across studies from 26% to 66%. The microbiology of Borrelia burgdorferi sheds light on why Lymedisease can be relapsing and remitting and why it can be refractory to normal immune surveillance and standard antibiotic regimens.


Psychiatrists who work in endemic areas need to include Lyme disease in the differential diagnosis of any atypical psychiatric disorder. Further research is needed to identify better laboratory tests and to determine the appropriate manner (intravenous or oral) and length (weeks or months) of treatment among patients with neuropsychiatric involvement.

Am Fam Physician. 2001 May 15;63(10):1969-74.

When to suspect and how to monitor babesiosis.

Mylonakis E1.


In the past decade, cases of babesiosis in humans have been reported with increasing frequency, especially in the northeastern United States. Babesia microti (in the United States) and bovine strains (in Europe) cause most infections in humans.

Most cases are tick-borne, although cases of transfusion-associated and transplacental/perinatal transmission have also been reported. Factors associated with more severe disease include advanced age, previous splenectomy and immunodeficient states.

Symptoms include high fever, chills, diaphoresis, weakness, anorexia and headache. Later in the course of the illness, the patient may develop jaundice. Congestive heart failure, renal failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome are the most common complications.

Therapy using the combination of quinine sulfate and clindamycin was the most commonly used treatment; however, atovaquone suspension plus azithromycin was recently reported an equally effective and less toxic therapy. Exchange transfusion, together with antibabesial chemotherapy, may be necessary in critically ill patients.

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Last Updated- May 2019

Lucy Barnes