New antibiotic shows exciting potential at treating Lyme disease

Posted: 12th November 2021

Researchers have identified an exciting new antibiotic that shows excellent potential in treating Lyme disease and eradicating it from the environment. In a recent paper published in the journal Cell, the authors describe how the antimicrobial hygromycin A effectively treated Lyme disease infections in mice, with few of the adverse side effects seen with current broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Lyme disease infections are growing at an alarming rate, with almost 300,000 cases in the USA every year and many more across Europe and the rest of the world. Current broad-spectrum antibiotics are effective at treating most patients with Lyme disease; however, they can harm the gut microbiome. They can also heighten the risk of resistance in non-target bacteria, increasing the risk of antimicrobial resistance.

There’s exciting progress in developing a Lyme disease vaccine; this won’t help those infected. Scientists at Northeastern University in Boston and the University of Oklahoma have identified highly targeted antibiotic that has a narrower focus of activity. Put simply, it’s better at treating Lyme disease, with few negative side effects. 

The researchers “A screen of soil microorganisms revealed a compound highly selective against spirochetes, including B. burgdorferi,” said co-author Helen I. Zgurskaya. To their surprise, the team identified hygromycin A, an already known antimicrobial, as a candidate. “Hygromycin A cleared the B. burgdorferi infection in mice, including animals that ingested the compound in a bit, and was less disruptive to the fecal microbiome than clinically relevant antibiotics,” said Zgurskaya. 

Scientists have known about hygromycin A for over 70 years, but this is the first time scientists have used it to target Lyme disease. As well as providing more effective and targeted treatment for Lyme disease, hygromycin A could also have another use at preventing Lyme disease from spreading, say the authors. “This selective antibiotic holds the promise of providing a better therapeutic for Lyme disease and eradicating it in the environment.”

The exciting results show promise, but there are still significant hurdles before the antibiotic is cleared for use in the clinic. It is critical that Lyme disease is diagnosed as quickly as possible and treated rapidly with antibiotics until then.

At Biocentaur, we offer a range of personalised genetic tests that can diagnose Lyme disease. The PrimeSpot Test can detect the presence of Lyme disease-associated species in a DNA sample. It should be combined with our PaldiSpot test that can detect Borrelia, Babesia and Bartonella genospecies from a sample. Together, they provide a clinician with all the information they need to diagnose and treat Lyme disease.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can read more about our range of advanced genetic tests here.

You can read the full paper, A selective antibiotic for Lyme disease, here.

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