ticks on a blade of grass, prevent Lyme disease, severe anemia

Tick bites can transmit a variety of serious diseases, including Lyme disease. A specific germ causes this infection. It is a spirochete in the genus Borrelia. In the US, B. burgdorferi is usually responsible. In Europe, different species within the Borrelia genus cause Lyme infections. The germ is transmitted through the bite of a blacklegged tick, aka a deer tick (Ixodes scapularis).

Could You Prevent Lyme Disease After a Tick Bite?

Most people wait until symptoms develop before seeking treatment. (In areas where Lyme disease is very common, doctors may treat as soon as a patient notices a tick bite.) But wouldn’t it be great to have a way to prevent Lyme disease?

A Topical Treatment to Prevent Lyme Disease:

Now, Austrian researchers have developed a topical antibiotic gel containing azithromycin. When applied to the site of the tick bite within three days, it can prevent Lyme disease infections.

In this study, more than 1,000 patients were randomly assigned to use the gel or a placebo every 12 hours over a period of three days. Of those who applied the antibiotic gel, none developed Lyme borreliosis. There were seven infections in the control group. The investigators reported no complications from gel use.

Lancet Infectious Diseases, Dec. 20, 2016 

One difficulty with this approach is that a person needs to recognize a tick bite immediately. Deer tick nymphs that carry the germ are very small and may not be noticed right away. That is why it is crucial to do complete inspections of every part of the body after being in an area where there are ticks.

What Are the Consequences of Lyme Disease?

Although the diagnosis of Lyme disease is more sophisticated now than it once was, failing to treat it can lead to serious complications. Some people develop arthritis. Others have cognitive problems as a consequence of Lyme disease. You may be interested in our interview with Neil Spector, MD, author of Gone in a Heartbeat. He describes his multi-year odyssey that ended in a heart transplant.


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  1. dave

    Where can we get this gel for Lyme disease prevention?

  2. Sheila

    Interesting development on preventing Lyme Disease. I was very fortunate in that my doctor was very knowledgeable about Lyme disease and listened to my symptoms and started treatment immediately. However, for those of us who live alone, there are many parts of the body that go unseen, especially since these ticks are very small.

  3. Margot
    Ithaca, NY

    Is this cream available?

  4. Virginia

    Is topical azithromycin available yet? If so, is it OTC or prescription?

    • Terry Graedon

      This product is not available in the US yet.

  5. Donna

    Joe – can you provide a more in depth discussion of this study? I read the paper, and it does not seem to live up to the hype in the press release about it. They had to do a post-hoc analysis on certain subjects to get this result. I have been puzzled how a research university put out a press release that seems to spin the results excessively – or did I miss something when I read the paper? I get exposed to deer ticks often, so this is of particular interest to me. Thanks – I love the People’s Pharmacy!

    • Terry Graedon

      Donna, we appreciate you looking into this. The concept is fascinating, but we might have been fooled by the university’s press release. We were puzzled, as oral azithromycin is not typically used to treat borreliosis.

  6. Paraman

    Where can we get this gel?

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