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Could a Well-Known Psychological Disorder Be Associated with Lyme Disease?

Silvio Pitlik, MD, explains why he feels Lyme disease can make individuals obsessive.

Silvio Pitlik, MD, visiting scientist, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, explains why he feels Lyme disease can make individuals obsessive.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability):

“As a recognized expert in infectious disease, I’ve seen through the years between 10 and 20 patients who came to me with a characteristic pattern: they carry their medical files and they say, ‘I have Lyme [disease] and nobody believes me.’ [I’ll tell them,] ‘Well, we will send serology to the… [and they say,] ‘No, I’ve had that done that already. I was in Connecticut, they sent it to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).’

So, there is, with all respect to the patients, sometimes you see an obsession [with] being recognized as suffering from Lyme disease, and I haven’t seen that with other infectious diseases. Maybe yes, but not classic microbiologically-proven infectious disease. People want to get recognition. Now, why? Is it a pure psychological phenomenon? I believe that my colleague is saying something similar to what I think. I think that there is something special with Lyme [disease]. Maybe the bacteria localize in some areas of the brain that make people obsessive; everything is possible.

The group that I am working within Israel, they are doing [experiments regarding] OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder; this is a quite frequent condition. You can produce something similar to OCD in rats by modifying the microbiota, that means you take germ-free rats, you inoculate them with a certain combination of bacteria, and some will develop OCD, while some won’t. And so, maybe there is an interaction between Borrelia and the microbiota. I don’t know.”