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Lyme Disease
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Last updated January 1, 2014

Recovery of Lyme spirochetes by PCR in semen samples of previously diagnosed Lyme disease patients

Gregory Bach, DO, International Scientific Conference on Lyme Disease, April 2001

Lyme disease, being a spirochete with pathology similar to syphilis, is often found difficult to treat due to the spirochete invading sanctuary sites and displaying pleomorphic characteristics such as a cyst (L-form). Because a significant portion of sexually active couples present to my office with Lyme disease, with only one partner having a history of tick exposure, the question of possible secondary (sexual) vector of transmission for the spirochete warrants inquiry. Additionally, sexually active couples seem to have a marked propensity for antibiotic failure raising the question of sexually active couples re-infecting themselves through intimate contact.

Lyme spirochetes/DNA have been recovered from stored animal semen. Recovery of spirochete DNA from nursing mother's breast milk and umbilical cord blood by PCR (confirmed by culture/microscopy), have been found in samples provided to my office.

Surprisingly, initial laboratory testing of semen samples provided by male Lyme patients (positive by western blot/PCR in blood) and the male sexual partner of a Lyme infected female patient were positive approximately 40% of the time. PCR recovery of Lyme DNA nucleotide sequences with microscopic confirmation of semen samples yielded positive results in 14/32 Lyme patients (13 male semen samples and 1 vaginal pap).

ALL positive semen/vaginal samples in patients with known sexual partners resulted in positive Lyme titers/PCR in their sexual partners. 3/4 positive semen patients had no or unknown sexual partners to be tested.

These preliminary findings warrant further study. Current a statistical design study to evaluate the possibility of sexual transition of the spirochete is being undertaken. Our laboratory studies confirm the existence of Lyme spirochetes in semen/vaginal secretions. Whether or not further clinical studies with a larger statistical group will support the hypothesis of sexual transmission remains to be seen.

A retrospective clinical study is also underway. We are reviewing the medical records, collecting semen samples of patients who were previously diagnosed with current and previously treated Lyme disease are being asked to provide semen,pap and blood samples for extensive laboratory testing.

With the initially impressive data, we feel the subsequent statistical study on the sexual transmission of the Lyme spirochete will illuminate a much broader spectrum of public health concerns associated with the disease than the originally accepted tick borne vector.




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