October 16, 2019


Tickborne Triggered Seizure Disorder: Case Study of a Teenager with New Onset Seizure Disorder and the Neurological Impact of Tickborne Diseases

The Neurological impact of Bartonella and Rickettsia

This next case study is of an 18-year-old female who was adopted at the age of 5. Her adoptive mother described her as a malnourished premature baby who eventually received good foster care. This young lady was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency that was left untreated in her country of origin at the age of two. By the age of five, she was adopted and moved to the US with her American family. She was fully immunized twice, diagnosed with hypothyroidism and inadequate growth. By this time, an Endocrinologist was onboard and treating her thyroid and growth deficiencies. She seemed to rebound, reaching puberty by the age of 13. Life was stable for some time until January of 2016. She was nearly sixteen years old and developed sudden neuropsychiatric symptoms with acute confusion, severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, frequent urination, insomnia, auditory hallucinations, severe sensory issues, leg tremors and eventually catatonia.  Given her acute changes, her mother rushed her to the Emergency Room for evaluation. EEG was negative and she was hospitalized for apparent acute psychosis treated with Risperdal and Ativan.

After her hospitalization she followed up with a well-known Neurologist who identified positive Mycoplasma and initiated a course of Azithromycin. By the fourth dose she began to return to her normal state and began sleeping again. She was treated for over a month with antibiotics and seemed stable.

There was a great deal of stress in the family, a close family member died and within two weeks she developed new onset grand mal seizures while sleeping. Another ER visit with a normal EEG at the time determined perhaps the stress and trauma of her family member’s death may have triggered the event.

In January 2018 she had another grand mal seizure early in the am. Her neurologist began medications to address. She had no additional seizure activity but noted increasing anxiety. By December 2018 she suffered another grand mal seizure.

Further evaluation by the neurologist showed negative Lyme screening only, viral panels negative, tick-borne co-infections were not obtained, thyroid studies, electrolytes and inflammatory markers were all within normal limits.

This patient presented to me in February 2019. Upon further evaluation she was found to have progressive muscle weakness, cognitive dysfunction ongoing psychiatric symptoms, tremors and noted random striae or “stretch-marks” that would appear and disappear all over her body. She stated that this had occurred since the age of fourteen.  She admitted several evaluations with psychiatric acute hospital admission for escalating neuropsychological symptoms that included visual and auditory hallucinations, compulsions, rage, emotional lability, delusions, anxiety as well as the ongoing physical symptoms. Neuropsychological meds were ineffective. The patient upon presentation was taking high dose Depakote, gabapentin and folic acid to control her seizure activity.

Initial lab work up at my office showed an IGM positive Bartonella Henselae, Lyme Western Blot with an IGM indeterminate band 23-25 and IGG positive bands 18,23-25,28,31,34,39,41,45,and indeterminate bands 58 and 66. She also showed IGG positive Rickettsia and Anaplasma. She carried one copy of MTHFR A1298C and had significant GI bacteria overgrowth with Streptococcus, Citrobacter, Proteus and Bacillus.

She was started on a course of Azithromycin and Bactrim as well as biofilm busters and herbals.  Two months later she reported significant improvements noting striae lightening, energy improvements, mood stability, resolution of hallucinations, and her sleep was improving. She noted ongoing body and hand tremors as well as struggles cognitively with word finding but was back in school full time.

We decided to continue the treatment course and repeat her bloodwork in two months as well as continue follow up with her Neurologist to monitor. By June the patient was feeling great. She began a Depakote wean with her Neurologist and graduated High School.

Her lab results showed improvements with Bartonella levels as well as GI bacterial overgrowth. Rickettsia antibodies lingered unchanged as did Lyme bands. I added to her regimen Doxycycline and Cefdinir as well as an antifungal and supportive herbals to prevent yeast.

This patient is still a work in progress, however what is important to note is her complete reversal of the neuropsychological symptoms once antibiotics were initiated as well as the ongoing, successful wean of seizure medications.

Bartonella and Rickettsia infections both have an affinity for the central nervous system. It is challenging to identify given their non-specific symptom presentation at times. Rickettsia isn’t well understood regarding brain parenchyma and central nervous system transmission. We know in mouse studies, Rickettsia and Bartonella both contribute to neuroinflammation which can contribute to acute psychological symptoms. We see this type of neurological process in classic PANS patients related to strep. Although I see the trend clinically, I don’t feel that autoimmune encephalopathy related to tick-borne infections in children and young adults is well documented.

My hope is thru case study presentations you’ll connect real world, everyday struggles of these vulnerable patients with the disease process. I strongly feel further exploration of autoimmune encephalopathy as it relates to Lyme and other Tickborne illnesses in pediatrics should be a collaborative effort with mental health practitioners and welcome those interested to contact me.


For more: (Treatment)  (Rickettsia treatment)