Can Lyme disease be transmitted sexually?
There is no credible scientific evidence that Lyme disease can be spread from person-to-person through sexual contact. The biology of the Lyme spirochete is not consistent with sexual transmission, attempts to demonstrate sexual transmission in infected animals have all failed, and there has not been a single, adequately documented case of sexual transmission of Lyme disease reported in the scientific literature.
The following are some of the false arguments put forth to suggest sexual transmission:
- Borrelia burgdorferi and Treponema pallidum (the cause of syphilis) are both spirochetes (cork screw shaped bacteria). Therefore, B. burgdorferi can be transmitted like syphilis.
Not true. Although B. burgdorferi and T. pallidum are both spirochetes, they are not closely related. More importantly, they behave very differently within humans in ways that affect their potential for sexual transmission. T. pallidum spirochetes produce moist, superficial skin lesions (e.g., chancres on the genital, anal or oral mucosa) that contain enormous numbers of living spirochetes and are crucial to transmission by sexual contact. In contrast, B. burgdorferi spirochetes cannot survive on the surface of the skin or genital mucosa. They are present only in sparse numbers and only in the deep inner layers of the skin. Whereas syphilis spirochetes can penetrate the skin directly, Lyme disease spirochetes require a highly ordered metabolic process associated with feeding by certain species of ticks.
- Borrelia burgdorferi has been isolated from breast milk and semen.
Actually, it hasn' t. A single study reportedly found evidence of Borrelia DNA in breast milk using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay. PCR assays detect DNA from dead or living organisms, do not demonstrate the presence of living organisms, and are prone to false positive results. Peer-reviewed and published studies of semen have involved collecting semen from animals, inoculating the semen with bacterial growth media and millions of B. burgdorferi, and then artificially inseminating the animal with the media containing experimentally B. burgdorferi infected semen. The results of these studies provide no evidence that B. burgdorferi occurs naturally in semen.
- Husband and wife both have Lyme disease, and at least one doesn' t remember a tick bite.
It is not uncommon for more than one person in a household to develop Lyme disease. This occurs because household members share the same environment where infected ticks are abundant. Patients are often unaware of having been bitten because the ticks that transmit Lyme disease are extremely small.
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