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Volume: 3
Issue: 20
Date: 18-Dec-95

Table of Contents:

I.    LYMENET: Interpret Steere's Comments With Great Caution
II.   About The LymeNet Newsletter


*                  The National Lyme Disease Network                  *
*                         LymeNet Newsletter                          *

IDX#                Volume 3 - Number 20 - 12/18/95
IDX#                            INDEX
IDX#                   ***** SPECIAL ISSUE *****
IDX#  I.    LYMENET: Interpret Steere's Comments With Great Caution
IDX#  II.   About The LymeNet Newsletter


       " An expert is one who knows more and more about
         less and less. "

       -- Nicholas Murray Butler (1862-1947)
          Commencement address, Columbia University

EDITOR'S NOTE: An abridged version of the following letter appears
in the December 1, 1995 issue of Science.  

This is the last issue of volume 3 of the LymeNet Newsletter.
Volume 4 will begin publication in late January, 1996.

I.    LYMENET: Interpret Steere's Comments With Great Caution
Sender: Peter McFadden

I am writing this contribution to the LymeNet Newsletter in response
to the recent 10/13/95 Science article [1] reporting the National
Institutes' of Health (NIH) plans to study the possible existence of
chronic Lyme disease.  The main focus of the article was the
controversy between patient advocacy groups and treating physicians
on one side, and university based researchers (who frequently dispute
the existence of chronic Lyme disease) on the other.  The article
reported that the patient groups' tactics to encourage the study of
chronic Lyme disease "have angered research leaders such as Allen
Steere of Tufts University."  Is patient inspired research really so
bad?  What if this is an important research area university based
physicians have chosen not to study?

Dr. Steere has been one of the most outspoken critics of the existence
of chronic Lyme disease [2], and one of the most outspoken proponents
of the success of modest (10 - 30 day) courses of antibiotics [2].  
In a 1993 paper [3], Dr. Steere writes that in Lyme disease
"Standard antibiotic treatment probably fails less often than one
might think.  Most apparent treatment failures actually reflect

However evidence is mounting that the Lyme disease spirochete,
Borrelia burgdorferi, can persist in some patients despite
antibiotic therapy.  The spirochete has been isolated from the
skin [4,5], spinal fluid [5,6], synovial fluid [7], blood [8],
ligamentious tissue [9], muscle tissue [39] and iris tissue [10]
of patients after antibiotic therapy, including intravenous (IV)
and/or long courses of supposedly curative antibiotics.  In one
large European study of late Lyme disease treatment [11], 2 weeks
of IV Rocephin resulted in a cure rate of 31% (4 of 13 patients).  
When 2 weeks of IV Rocephin were followed with 100 days of oral
antibiotics, the cure rate went up to 87% (69 of 79 patients).  
A second European study of Lyme disease [12] showed a 50% cure
rate with 3 weeks of antibiotics, and a 78% cure rate with 8
weeks of antibiotics.

Perhaps examining some of Dr. Steere's earlier beliefs can add insight
to his belief that chronic Lyme disease is extremely rare or does
not exist.  It may surprise some to learn that in the first few years
he was associated with Lyme disease, Dr. Steere believed antibiotics
were ineffective.  In a 1977 Lyme disease paper [13], Dr. Steere and
his colleagues state "We remain skeptical that antibiotic therapy
helps."  In a 1978 paper [14], Dr. Steere and his colleagues wrote
"To sum up the therapy of Lyme arthritis (Lyme disease), it appears
that at this point only symptomatic treatment is feasible."  In a
1979 paper [15] on the neurological abnormalities of Lyme disease,
Dr. Steere and his colleagues reported that they "have noted no
benefit from antibiotic treatment."  In an article in The
New Yorker [16], a physician from Shelter Island, New York, who was
treating Lyme disease with antibiotics as early as 1976, stated that
"When Steere assured me that the disease was self-limiting, I
stopped using antibiotics."

Dr. Steere's early beliefs about antibiotics are surprising,
considering the literature that existed at the time.  A literature
search revealed 18 papers [18-35] reporting the efficacy of
antibiotics in treating Lyme disease (then called ECM disease)
before 1979.  Only one paper could be found (besides Dr. Steere's)
that reported no benefit [36].  In fact in all 4 case report papers
[20-23] on Lyme disease (ECM disease) where the patient(s) acquired
the disease in the United States, published before Dr. Steere's first
Lyme disease paper [37], all patients received antibiotics.

It is ironic that Dr. Steere, currently an outspoken proponent of the
near universal efficacy of 10 - 30 days of antibiotics in the
treatment of Lyme disease, was, with his colleagues, one of the lone
voices in the late 1970's insisting that antibiotics did not help.

Dr. Steere apparently turned his beliefs into action, or inaction as
the case may be.  In a 1987 paper [17] co-authored with Dr. Robert
T. Schoen, Dr. Steere reported: "To determine the clinical evolution
of Lyme arthritis, 55 patients who did not receive antibiotic therapy
for erythema chronicum migrans (ECM, the rash) were followed
longitudinally for a mean duration of 6 years [up until 1981]."  
This paper goes on to describe the ailments of many of these
unfortunate individuals, including frank arthritis, chronic
synovitis, joint erosions, and permanent joint disability.

Dr. Steere eventually conducted his own studies of antibiotics, and
discovered what many physicians already knew; antibiotics frequently
worked.  In a 1985 paper [38] describing the efficacy of antibiotics
in treating arthritic manifestations of Lyme disease, Steere wrote
that in the period 1980-1982, "We found that neurological abnormalities
of Lyme disease responded to high dose intravenous penicillin."
In a 1958 paper [28], 58 of 65 patients responded to treatment with
penicillin.  One wonders why Dr. Steere had to reinvent the wheel
considering the 18 prior papers spanning 3 decades, from both the
US [18-24], and Europe [25-35], describing the efficacy of
antibiotics in treating this illness.  These studies report exactly
what Dr. Steere later found [38]; though not universally effective,
most patients treated with penicillin fared much better.  

It is interesting that the only controlled studies [11,12] of longer
term antibiotics in helping to prevent chronic or relapsing Lyme
disease (both successful) were performed in Europe.  But then Dr.
Steere himself stated [1] that the proposed NIH study of chronic Lyme
disease "would never have been funded" through the "normal
mechanisms" of investigator-initiated research.  Unfortunately, I'm
afraid I agree with Dr. Steere on this point.

Dr. Steere's early insistence that antibiotics played no role in the
treatment of Lyme disease indicates that his current statements and
beliefs should be interpreted with great caution.

Peter McFadden, M.S.
4611 Governor's Drive
Apartment 1001
Huntsville, AL 35805
(205) 722-0474


[1]  Marshall, E: Science 270, 228 (1995)

[2]  Steere AC et al: "The Overdiagnosis of Lyme Disease" JAMA 269,
    1812 (1993)

[3]  Steere AC: Hospital Practice, pg 37 (April, 1993)

[4]  Hassler D et al: The Lancet 338, 193 (1991)

[5]  Preac-Mursic V et al: Infection 17, 355 (1989)

[6]  Pfister H et al: The J of Infectious Disease 163, 311 (1991)

[7]  Schmidli J., et al;  Cultivation of B. burgdorferi from Joint
    Fluid Three Months After Treatment of Facial Palsey Due to Lyme
    Borreliosis;  J. of Infectious Disease 158: 4, pg 905-906 (1988)

[8]  Masters E et al: "Spirochetemia Two Weeks post cessation of six
    months of continuous p.o. Amoxicillin Therapy" (Abstr. 65, Fifth
    Int'l Conf on Lyme Borreliosis, Arlington, VA; 1992)

[9]  Haupl T et al: Arthritis & Rheumatism 36, 1621 (1993)

[10] Preac-Mursic V et al: J of Neuroloophthalmology 13, 155 (1993)

[11] Wahlberg P et al: J of Infection 29, 255 (1994)

[12] Bojic I et al: Glas Srp Akad Nauka 43 (Yugoslavia), 257 (1993)

[13] Steere AC et al: Annals of Internal Medicine 86, 685 (1977)

[14] Steere AC et al: Hospital Practice, 143 (April, 1978)

[15] Reik L, Steere AC et al: Medicine 58, 281 (1979)

[16] Roueche B: The New Yorker, 83 (Sept. 12, 1988)

[17] Steere AC et al: Annals of Internal Medicine 107, 725 (1987)

[18] Hellerstrom S: Erythema chronicum migrans afzelius with
    meningitis.  Southern Med J 43:330, 1950.

[19] Flanagan BP: Erythema chronicum migrans Afzelius in Americans.
    Arch Dermatol 86:410-411, 1962.

[20] Scrimenti RJ: Erythema chronicum migrans. Arch Dermatol 102:
    104-105, 1970.

[21] Mast WE, Burrows WM Jr: Erythema chronicum migrans in the United
    States: JAMA 236:859-860, 1976.

[22] Wagner L, Susens G, Heiss L, et al: Erythema chronicum migrans:
    a possibly infectious disease imported from Northern Europe.  
    West J Med 124:503-505, 1976.

[23] Smith RL et al: Cutis 17, 962 (1976)

[24] Naversen DN, et al; Erythema Chronicum Migrans in America;
    Archives of Dermatology 114, pg 253-254 (1978)

[25] Lennhoff C: Spirochaetes in aetiologically obscure diseases.  
    Aca Derm Venereol (Stockh) 28:295-324, 1948.

[26] Hollstrom E: Successful treatment of erythema migrans Afzelius.  
    Acta Derm Venereol (Stockh) 31:235-243, 1951.

[27] Hellerstrom S: Erythema chronicum migrans Afzelius with
    meningitis.  Acta Derm Venereol 31:227-234, 1951.

[28] Janson P: Haufigkeit, klinisches Bild, Therapie und Aetiologie
    des Erythema chronicum migrans.  Med Kiin 48:1139-1141, 1953.

[29] Degos R, Touraine R, Aroutte J: Erythema chronicum migrans:
    Discussion of rickettsial origin.  Ann Derm Syph  89:247-260,

[30] Hollstrom E: Penicillin Treatment of erythema chronicum migrans
    afzelius.  Acta Derm  38:285-289, 1958.

[31] Binder E, Doepfmer R, Horstein O: Experimentelle ubertragung des
    erythema chronicum migrans von Mensch zu Mensch.  Hautarzt 6:
    494-496, 1955.  Abstracted, Excerpta Med 10:453, 1956.

[32] Sonck CE: Erythema chronicum migrans with multiple lesions.  
    Acta Derm Venereol (Stockh) 45:34-36, 1965.

[33] Andermann I: Beitrag zur Begandkung des Erythema chronicum
    migrans.  Dermatol Wochenschur 149:441-443, 1964.

[34] Sonck CE: Griseofulvin: Unwirksam bei erythema chronicum migrans.
    Hautarzt 21:514-516, 1970.  Abstracted, Exerpta Med 26:149, 1972.

[35] Weber K: Erythema chronicum migrans meningitis eine bakterielle
    Infektionskrankheit? Munch Med Wochenschr 116:1993-1998, 1974.

[36] Horstrup P, Ackermann R: Durch zecken ubertragene
    Meningopolyneuritis (Garin-Bujadoux, Bannwarth).  Fortschr Neurol
    Psychiatr 41:583-606, 1973.

[37] Steere AC et al: Arthritis Rheum 20, 7 (1977)

[38] Steere AC et al: NEJM 312,  869 (1985)

[39] Hoffmann JC et al: Lyme disease in a 74 year old forest
    owner with symptoms of dermatomyositis.  Arthritis Rheum
    38, 8: 1157-1160 (1995)


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