Matthew Goss's Lyme Disease InformationIs It Sexually Transmitted?
is an area of controversy, and one where little formal study has been done.
Some couples who have Lyme swear they gave it to their husband/wife. In
other situations, the whole family has Lyme, so it is possible for members
of the same family to be infected separately.
How can it be known whether it was passed from one person to another or if both people were infected by a tick bite? After all, many people with Lyme do not remember ever getting bitten by a tick, and it is reasonable to assume that couples could have been infected at the same time while traveling through a tick-infested area.
There has been at least one case where a doctor has found Bb bacteria in semen. However this does not necessarily mean that the disease can be transmitted sexually. The test only proves that the bacteria was present, not whether or not it was alive, or even a whole cell (the different bands on tests identify different parts of the bacteria). And this is an important distinction because as bacteria are killed by antibiotics or the immune system, the dead cells are broken up and filtered out through the kidneys and passed in urine through the urethra, the same path used by semen. It is certain that these dead cells could end up in a semen sample if they are travelling down the same pipe.
The AIDS virus (HIV) is present in saliva but you cannot get AIDS from kissing someone.
And syphilis (another spirochetal bacteria) is no longer contagious after you are successfully treated for the disease, so even if Lyme is sexually transmitted it may be assumed that it is no longer contagious after successful treatment. Especially when you consider that syphilis is much more highly contagious (you can catch it thru kissing).
So if Lyme is less contagious (you can't get it from kissing), you would think that if there were no active Lyme infection then it could no longer be spread, even if it were proven to be sexually transmitted.
I have spoken to two doctors (LLMDs) about this, and not surprisingly they each have their own opinion on the subject. They base their opinions on over a decade of seeing hundreds of patients. One said that if Lyme were sexually transmitted he would see a lot more cases where both spouses are infected, and he just isn't seeing that. There would also be a lot more cases from the population at large if Lyme were transmitted easily through sexual intercourse. The other doctor said he believed that it is sexually transmitted, but only when there is an active infection and you are not taking antibiotics. In other words, if you have no symptoms and have finished treatment you are no longer contagious, or if you are taking antibiotics you are not contagious.
I personally do not believe that enough evidence exists to support the idea of sexual transmission of Lyme. After 30 years since this disease was identified I think it would be readily apparent if it were sexually transmitted. Perhaps this is why few studies have been done.
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Last Update: 10/22/2004