Pharmaceutical antibiotics and herbal, or natural, antibiotics are both commonly used in Lyme disease treatment. The oral antibiotics Doxycycline, Amoxicillin and Ceftin are the three pharmaceutical antibiotics most often recommended during stage 1. Antibiotics (such as Rocephin) may also be administered via IV and used for longer periods of time.

Although treatment is frequently delayed for many reasons -- not least of all, the sub-standard tests available for Lyme disease -- Lyme specialists say the patient has a better chance at successful treatment if they seek
antibiotic treatment as early as possible after infection. If treatment is administered during stage 1, antibiotics are effective in many cases. However, many people experience recurrences of Lyme symptoms such as headaches, skin rashes, musculoskeletal pain, or intense fatigue, even when they have received treatment early. Recurrences can be an indication that the particular antibiotic used was not effective, and/or that the initial course of antibiotics was not of a long enough duration to be effective.

In a nutshell, the controversy between the
IDSA and ILADS has to do with antibiotics that are administered for periods longer than 30 days. There are many viable arguments against long-term usage, such as adaptation or build-up of resistance in the cells of the bacteria, as well as the side effect caused by pharmaceutical antibiotics as they kill off protective flora in the stomach. However, other serious diseases such as tuberculosis, leprosy, and malaria require long-term antibiotic use, and there is no controversy about it. ILADS physician Dr. Raphael Stricker believes that this is due to a conventional medical bias against viewing Lyme as a serious disease.

Several thorny challenges lie at the mysterious core of Lyme disease. The
Borrelia complex is a stealth pathogen with the capability to cloak itself. Hiding from the body's immune system and effectively dodging the antibiotic treatment allows it to achieve its primary aim of survival. Although it is widely known that tick bites should be cause for seeing a doctor and getting tested, the complexity of Lyme disease has long been problematic in devising adequate testing. Then again, tick bites can be very difficult to detect. For some, it simply may not be possible to know when the initial infection occurred.

ILADS doctors suggest that the conventional IDSA-recommended Lyme treatment, which is a single course of antibiotics administered for 30 days, is a flawed treatment in that it ignores the complexity of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, and so it frequently fails to treat Lyme disease adequately. When the Lyme bacteria is treated inadequately, people may present with
chronic Lyme symptoms ranging from severe to something related to everyday aches and pains. Recurrence may occur many months or years from the time of the initial antibiotic treatment. Symptoms seem to recur when the body is stressed through aging, onset of another disease, or when chronically fatigued.

Antibiotics are effective in killing off detectable bacteria. However, the human body needs certain bacteria to help keep the immune system balanced. When using antibiotics it is necessary to take a high quality probiotic supplement to replace the friendly bacteria in the intestines. Dr. Lee Cowden, a physician researcher and cardiologist, the unfortunate side effects of antibiotics in some people can be as problematic as the
Lyme symptoms themselves.

The main objective of anybody suffering with Lyme is to keep it from becoming a treatment-resistant chronic condition with symptoms that persist for many months or even years.

Pharmaceutical antibiotics used in Lyme treatment:

Amoxicillin
Amoxicillin/clavulanate (Augmentin)
Azithromycin (Zithromax)
Cefotaxime (Claforan)
Ceftriaxone (Rocephin)
Cefuroxime axetil (Ceftin)
Clarithromycin (Biaxin)
Doxycycline
Metronidazole (Flagyl)
Penicillin G/benzylpenicillin/benzathine
Tetracycline



What are non-pharmaceutical antibiotics?

Non-pharmaceutical antibiotics are also called natural antibiotics. Herbal antibiotics have side effects as well as the conventional kind, although many Lyme patients find them to be more tolerable and controllable than the side effects of pharmaceutical antibiotics. Some Lyme-educated physicians advocate for alternative treatments for recurring Lyme symptoms when conventional antibiotics are no longer effective or appropriate, as happens in the event of allergy or overuse. Are there reliable natural antibiotics? Yes. Many herbal remedies contain antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal qualities and are being used successfully in Lyme treatment. Samento, Cumanda, Cat's Claw, and other herbs often work when the patient cannot or will not take pharmaceutical antibiotics.



Resources

Dr. Raphael Stricker (oral communication)
Dr. Lee Cowden (oral communication)
Stephen Buhner (oral communication)

Lyme Disease Antibiotics
Read more about Lyme disease antibiotics on the LDRD blog.