Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease transmitted to man through the bite of a tick infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.

When is treatment prescribed?

The presence of symptoms of Lyme disease warrants antibiotic treatment, which will be prescribed by the doctor.

However, a positive serologic test result (presence in the blood of antibodies against the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium) without characteristic symptoms (erythema migrans or other) is not sufficient to start antibiotic treatment.

The doctor will decide to prescribe antibiotic treatment if:

  • the clinical examination reveals the presence of an erythema migrans
  • or if a clear diagnostic is made based on other symptoms and the results of the blood tests.

At present it is not recommended to take antibiotics after a bite in order to prevent the disease. Prophylactic antibiotic treatment is only considered in a context where over 20% of ticks are infected, which is not the case in Belgium.

What does the treatment consist of?

Lyme disease is treated by antibiotics.

The sooner this treatment is administered, the more effective it will be.

The dose, type of antibiotic, administration route (oral or intravenous) and the length of the treatment are variable and must be adapted according to the patient and the symptoms of the disease.

Certain types of antibiotic are contraindicated for pregnant women.

The prolonging of the duration of treatment or the association of different antibiotics are not recommended and could be toxic.

4 reasons for not being alarmed

  • Not every bite is infectious (in Belgium only about 10% of ticks are infected).
  • An infected tick does not necessarily transmit the bacteria.
  • An infected person does not necessarily develop the disease.
  • Lyme disease can be treated effectively with antibiotics if it is diagnosed in time.

Sciensano ensures epidemiological surveillance of Lyme disease through a monitoring network of laboratories and general practitionersand a National Reference Centre  for Borrelia burgdorferi. 

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