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Single Dose of Antibiotics Prevents Lyme Disease

Aired June 17, 2001 - 09:23   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Typically this is the peak season for Lyme disease and there's some encouraging news for people who fear they might get it. New research shows a single dose of a certain antibiotic can prevent Lyme disease in people who have been bitten by deer ticks.

Joining us now from New York is one of the researchers who read that study. Dr. Robert Nadelman is an Infectious Disease Specialist.

Doctor, thanks for being with us.

DR. ROBERT NADELMAN, NEW YORK MEDICAL COLLEGE: Thanks for having me.

PHILLIPS: Sure. Let's talk about, first of all, how one can get Lyme disease.

NADELMAN: Well, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that's transmitted by the bite of a very small tick called a deer tick and the nymphal stage of the tick, which is the stage that's most likely to transmit disease is only the size of a poppy seed.

PHILLIPS: Are there some areas where -- in which -- some states that are worse than others?

NADELMAN: Yes, absolutely. The main focus of Lyme disease in the United States is in the Middle Atlantic and New England states. There's also a large focus in Wisconsin and Minnesota and then some other parts of the United States including the West Coast as well.

PHILLIPS: OK, so how do you know if you have Lyme disease? I know you brought in some pictures so maybe you can reference these and talk a little bit about the symptoms.

NADLEMAN: Sure, I'll be happy to.

PHILLIPS: All right.

NADELMAN: OK, well, this is the characteristic rash of Lyme disease that is present in the overwhelming majority of patients who have Lyme disease. And this rash starts as a little red spot at the site of the tick bite and then it grows larger in size over time and it sometimes has this central clearing and bull's eye appearance. This is a swollen knee, which, if people are not treated initially with antibiotics, may develop.

PHILLIPS: Go ahead.

NADELMAN: And that's the tick, which is, again, the size of a poppy seed. I should say that virtually any manifestation of Lyme disease can respond to antibiotics and the prognosis with antibiotic treatment is excellent.

PHILLIPS: OK, well, let's talk about the study that you did that did involve antibiotics and I know you brought some of them with you.

NADELMAN: Sure, sure.

PHILLIPS: Go into what your study revealed.

NADELMAN: Sure. Well, what we did -- we were interested in seeing if we could prevent Lyme disease after somebody had actually removed the deer tick. So what we did -- we enrolled people in Westchester County, New York, where I work and live, if they could come to us with a deer tick that they had removed within the previous 72 hours.

And we randomized them or by chance placed them in one of two groups -- either to receive two sugar pills or to receive two antibiotic pills. And neither the patient nor we knew which group they were randomized in. And then we followed them over six weeks -- we did physical examinations and interviews and blood tests. And we found several interesting findings. The first finding was that most people, even in the group receiving sugar pills didn't get Lyme disease after a tick bite.

And, in fact, 97 percent of people in the sugar pill group didn't get Lyme disease, even though they got no treatment. But we could lower that risk even further from 3.2 percent all the way down to .4 percent by giving just two Doxycyline tablets and I can show you right here.

PHILLIPS: OK.

NADELMAN: That's it -- just two tablets in a single dose...

PHILLIPS: Go ahead and raise it up for us there.

NADELMAN: Two tablets in a single dose here.

PHILLIPS: OK.

NADELMAN: And in addition we found that not everybody whose bitten by a deer tick is at particular risk of Lyme disease but that risk was really limited to people who removed the nymphal deer tick, which is around basically from the -- from May until the end of July. And not just the nymphal deer tick but the nymphal deer tick that was somewhat filled with human blood, in other words, it had been feeding for a couple of days or more.

And what that means, I think, is that most tick bites and even most deer tick bites are not anything really to worry much about. But since the tick has to feed for more than a couple days to transmit Lyme disease you can prevent Lyme disease and interrupt the transmission by removing the tick quickly.

PHILLIPS: Dr. Nadelman, too, before we let you go I've got to ask you to respond to "The New York Times" article that come out talking about the real problem here is a Lyme anxiety and that this fear is sort of over rated about Lyme disease. Do you agree with that?

NADELMAN: Well, there are different viewpoint. Lyme disease can cause a lot of problems and a lot of discomfort and I have personal knowledge of that. My daughter as we speak is finishing up a course of antibiotics because her Lyme specialist, infectious disease specialist daddy didn't notice a tick bite behind her ear. So she got Lyme disease and was pretty sick.

And many people do get pretty sick but the -- with antibiotics the prognosis is excellent. Most people do very well. And although Lyme disease can be a serious illness, I think that it's not quite as serious as it's often made out to be.

PHILLIPS: And awareness is important. Dr. Robert Nadelman, thank you so much for being with us this morning, sir.

NADELMAN: My pleasure. Thank you.

PHILLIPS: All right.

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