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.
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.