Anti-neural antibody reactivity in patients with a history of Lyme borreliosis and persistent symptoms
Some Lyme disease patients report debilitating chronic symptoms of pain, fatigue, and cognitive deficits despite recommended courses of antibiotic treatment. The mechanisms responsible for these symptoms, collectively referred to as post-Lyme disease syndrome (PLS) or chronic Lyme disease, remain unclear. We investigated the presence of immune system abnormalities in PLS by assessing the levels of antibodies to neural proteins in patients and controls. Serum samples from PLS patients, post-Lyme disease healthy individuals, patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, and normal healthy individuals were analyzed for anti-neural antibodies by immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry. Anti-neural antibody reactivity was found to be significantly higher in the PLS group than in the post-Lyme healthy (p<0.01) and normal healthy (p<0.01) groups. The observed heightened antibody reactivity in PLS patients could not be attributed solely to the presence of cross-reactive anti-borrelia antibodies, as the borrelial seronegative patients also exhibited elevated anti-neural antibody levels. Immunohistochemical analysis of PLS serum antibody activity demonstrated binding to cells in the central and peripheral nervous systems. The results provide evidence for the existence of a differential immune system response in PLS, offering new clues about the etiopathogenesis of the disease that may prove useful in devising more effective treatment strategies.