Treating Lyme disease in 2018: advances and misconceptions

A new column by Yale pediatrician and epidemiologist Eugene Shapiro, M.D. sheds light on medical breakthroughs and common myths surrounding Lyme disease.
A Beware or Ticks sign posted in a temperate forest.


Summer in Connecticut is also Lyme disease season. In the past few years, there has been much media attention over the significant increase in the incidence of the condition. However, according to Yale pediatrician and epidemiologist Eugene Shapiro, M.D., that increase has not been enormous, and in the past four years (2013 to 2016) there has been no significant increase — that worry over escalation of the disease is one of the many misconceptions that plagues the current conversation around the tick-borne infection.

Writing in the Viewpoint column of JAMA on Aug. 2, Shapiro has brought together the latest updates on the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease. These include insights about a different, recently discovered deer tick-borne infection, a new and more efficient serologic antibody test for Lyme disease, the debunking of the myth that antibody tests are not useful in making a diagnosis of Lyme disease, and the revised antibiotic protocols for treating Lyme disease in children.

The epidemiologist does not downplay, however, the overall prevalence of Lyme, which in 2016 had 26,203 confirmed cases with estimates of an actual annual figure of 300,000. Indeed, he notes, that geographic distribution has increased, although only to locations “adjacent to endemic areas,” such as New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the areas around Wisconsin.

To read more about these updates to the field of Lyme disease treatment and diagnosis, find Shapiro’s full commentary in JAMA online now.


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