COVID-19 risks may be heightened by history of Lyme disease

In a recent study published on the preprint server Research Square*, researchers report that individuals with a history of Borrelia infection, otherwise known as Lyme disease, caused by tick bites are at a higher risk of severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Study: Correlation between COVID-19 severity and previous exposure of patients to Borrelia spp. Image Credit: Kateryna Kon /

(See link for article)



  • Serological testing is not sufficient to differentiate between recent and past infections because antibodies persist in the blood – even after treatment.  What the article doesn’t say is that THIS, RIGHT HERE, is why current CDC 2-tiered testing should never be used solely to diagnose patients and why doctors need to be educated to make correct clinical judgments. 
  • What started the whole ball of wax is a case report of a patient infected with Lyme who was unsuccessfully treated with one round of antibiotics and who then got COVID.  The patient’s Lyme was suppressed (lower IgG test) due to the anti-COVID meds (umifenovir, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, and ceftriaxone).
  • The study included:
    • 31 severely ill & hospitalized patients who were either required non-invasive or invasive ventilation.
    • 28 COVID positive patients who had either mild or asymptomatic cases who were either treated at home or unaware of infection.
    • 28 seronegative controls
  • Serum samples were collected for COVID and Borrelia infections
    • A multi-antigen microblot-array utilizing 19 antigens revealed Lyme in all hospitalized COVID patients. 
    • Of the 28 mild or asymptomatic patients, 19 had Lyme, whereas in the control group of 28, 8 had Lyme.
    • Severe COVID patients also had significantly higher levels of antibodies targeting Anaplasma.
  • Regarding seropositivity for IgM antibodies (1st antibodies to show up after infection that stay for a short period of time):
    • 24 of the 31 hospitalized patients had Lyme antibodies
    • 13 of the 28 mild/asymptomatic patients had Lyme antibodies
    • 15 of the 28 in the control group had Lyme antibodies
  • Risk of COVID-related hospitalizations increased with each positive IgG (antibodies produced later on in infection and can remain after infection resolves. Having high IgG can be indicative of chronic Lyme), but was not observed for IgM.
  • Post-hoc analysis of selected antigens (Osp proteins, p41, and VlsE) was also
    included; multivariate analysis showed that odds of hospitalization increased with increasing levels of:
    • IgG antibodies targeting OspB, OspC B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, and OspC
      B. spielmanii
    • For IgM antibodies, the same association was observed for antibodies targeting OspC B. spielmanii and OspE
  • Interestingly, the authors state that they observed in many patients antibodies targeting different species (e.g. B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, and at the same time
    B. afzelii, and/or B. garinii) which may reflect cross-reactivity but also may result from coinfections with more than one species.
  • Previous exposure to Lyme and other tick-borne diseases can increase risk of severe COVID and this is the first observation that suggests links between Lyme disease and COVID-19 prognostics.
  • The authors state that screening of anti-Borrelia antibodies in COVID patients could identify high-risk patients and improve their management.
Journal reference:
  • Szewczyk-Dabrowska, A., Budziar, W., Harhala, M., et al. (2022). Correlation between COVID-19 severity and previous exposure of patients to Borrelia spp. Research Square. doi:10.21203/



This is a very interesting study but I come up with slightly different take-aways.  The first of which is – don’t let this article frighten you.  1) there are cheap, effective, safe treatments for COVID.  Far safer & cheaper than Lyme/MSIDS treatment! 2) it only makes logical sense that those with Lyme/MSIDS are sitting ducks for pretty much everything including highly contagious viruses (if that’s what this even is). Lyme/MSIDS patients already struggle with EBV, Herpes, cytomegalovirus, and much, much more.  You are not a hopeless, helpless victim. There are answers and actions you can take to protect yourself and treat yourself should you contract COVID.:

  • The case study states that the person’s Lyme was suppressed due to anti-COVID meds, yet list antibiotics (ceftriaxone & azithromycin) that are used often for Lyme – which would explain the suppression.  Suppression doesn’t mean the Lyme goes away, it just means it isn’t being picked up on the test – a common, well-known problem patients deal with on a daily basis.
  • HCQ was used, which is also used for Babesia, a coinfection they didn’t look for but is known to cause much more severe Lyme for a greater duration IF the patient has both infection concurrently.
  • And Umifenovir is a broad‐spectrum antiviral, which while it doesn’t treat Lyme directly, could assist by beating back other viruses like herpes, EBV, and others – all of which are big players in Lyme.  Treating Lyme/MSIDS is a balancing act.  Giving appropriate treatment to beat back infections and supporting your immune system to handle what’s there without freaking out is more in line than a “cure” of erradicating everything within you.  We are covered in germs/viruses and most are held in check by our immune system.  A tick/insect bite changes that balance (or other modes of transmission such as congenital or sexual, etc)
  • They looked for 19 antigens which is unheard of for average folk!
  • They found Lyme (antibodies) in nearly everyone – even the controls!  This, to me, is the real finding. 
  • Their suggestion to “screen for anti-Borrelia antibodies in COVID patients” to identify potential “high risk” patients only has one flaw:  testing sucks and is not to be trusted!
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