NEWS: Recent study suggests that Lyme disease can be sexually transmitted

25th January 2014

spirochete image

Notes one researcher: "There is always some risk of getting Lyme disease from a tick bite in the woods. But there may be a bigger risk of getting Lyme disease in the bedroom.”

Press release, January 25, 2014:

Carmel, CA – A new study suggests that Lyme disease may be sexually transmitted. The study was presented at the annual Western Regional Meeting of the American Federation for Medical Research, and an abstract of the research was published in the January issue of the Journal of Investigative Medicine.

Lyme disease is a tick-borne infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of corkscrew- shaped bacteria known as a spirochete (pronounced spiro’keet). The Lyme spirochete resembles the agent of syphilis, long recognized as the epitome of sexually transmitted diseases. Last summer the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that Lyme disease is much more common than previously thought, with over 300,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States. That makes Lyme disease almost twice as common as breast cancer and six times more common than HIV/AIDS.

“Our findings will change the way Lyme disease is viewed by doctors and patients,” said Marianne Middelveen, lead author of the study presented in Carmel. “It explains why the disease is more common than one would think if only ticks were involved in transmission.”

The present study was a collaborative effort by an international team of scientists. In addition to Middelveen, a veterinary microbiologist from Canada, researchers included molecular biologists Jennie Burke, Augustin Franco and Yean Wang and dermatologist Peter Mayne from Australia working with molecular biologists Eva Sapi and Cheryl Bandoski, family practitioner Hilary Schlinger and internist Raphael Stricker from the United States.

In the study, researchers tested semen samples and vaginal secretions from three groups of patients: control subjects without evidence of Lyme disease, random subjects who tested positive for Lyme disease, and married heterosexual couples engaging in unprotected sex who tested positive for the disease.

As expected, all of the control subjects tested negative for Borrelia burgdorferi in semen samples or vaginal secretions. In contrast, all women with Lyme disease tested positive for Borrelia burgdorferi in vaginal secretions, while about half of the men with Lyme disease tested positive for the Lyme spirochete in semen samples. Furthermore, one of the heterosexual couples with Lyme disease showed identical strains of the Lyme spirochete in their genital secretions.

“The presence of the Lyme spirochete in genital secretions and identical strains in married couples strongly suggests that sexual transmission of the disease occurs,” said Dr. Mayne.

“We don’t yet understand why women with Lyme disease have consistently positive vaginal secretions, whilst semen samples are more variable. Obviously there is more work to be done here.”

Dr. Stricker pointed to the unknown risks of contracting Lyme disease raised by the study. “There is always some risk of getting Lyme disease from a tickbite in the woods,” he said. “But there may be a bigger risk of getting Lyme disease in the bedroom.”

Reference: The Journal of Investigative Medicine 2014;62:280-281.

\Presented at the Western Regional Meeting of the American Federation for Medical Research, Carmel, CA, January 25, 2014.

Additional information:



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29 thoughts on “NEWS: Recent study suggests that Lyme disease can be sexually transmitted

  1. This is how I fear my husband got Lyme. I’ve been infected for over 20 years and we have been together nearly ten. 2 years ago he began to slowly become ill and in 2013 launched into full-blown Chronic Lyme. No history of a tick bite and previously very healthy. Tested CDC positive in August 2013 and has become just as debilitated as I have been. I worry if I may have passed on my coinfections as well. Terrifying! It truly makes you wonder if the actual amount of those infected is much much higher than even the Lyme community believes it to be.

    • I just read this n my heart sank to my stomach. I was never told by my Dr I couldn’t have sex. N to now think I may have put my husband’s life in danger of this crappy disease makes me ill. Oh Lord don’t let him have this. It’s bad enough my 16yr old n I have it. Joys of 4 wheeling out on the uncles farm.

  2. I don’t believe this. Something is seriously wrong with the design of this study. Did they somehow control for the other other spouse having no possible other access to ticks? My husband gets Lyme a lot. I do too. He’s an arborist, I have a horse. This study just seems like nonsense to me.

    • They didn’t say they proved it could be sexually transmitted. They just proved that it was in %100 of sexual fluid from women and in about half of sexual fluid from men. You can speculate about what might happen from there.

  3. Though I can believe it, I think it will be just dismissed since it basically comes from our side. Unfortunately, their doesn’t seem to be that much funding for objective research by neutral parties, so we are kind of damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

  4. I saw this article and frankly, it makes pretty damned angry. I thank and applaud you for doing this research. It is long overdue!

    Health professionals and researchers should have ASSUMED it was sexually transmitted until it was proven otherwise. Anything other than that is nothing short of malpractice in their part. And while I’m not a health professional, I’m no idiot either.

    1. Lyme disease is a blood borne pathogen. Name one other blood borne pathogen that is not sexually transmitted. Can’t? That’s because THERE IS NONE. So why would health professionals not warn patients to practice safe sex? Again, as said, it’s nothing short of malpractice.
    2. There are hundreds of thousands of DOCUMENTED cases of spouses and partners contracting Lyme Disease without any history of exposure through anything but sexual transmission. Again, why would you ignore, and disregard this data and information?
    3. Finally, but certainly not least of all, knowing that the bacterium for Lyme Disease is a spirochete, they KNOW from their medical experiences with Syphilis, that it is a difficult bacterium to kill off, that it hides in tissues and organs, can lie dormant, and can cause neurological and psychological issues once it enters the brain. So the fact that it’s in fluids shared during intercourse should not have been a surprise for the medical community. Again, is this gross negligence, malpractice, or a cover up of something else?

    The big question here isn’t whether or not Lyme Disease is sexually transferrable. It’s a reasonable assumption that it is for the reasons cited above!

    The real question is why doctors and researchers in organizations (and the government) as were covering that up, and why were they denying the tests to prove partners had contracted it?

    Is the answer, because the insurance companies didn’t want to pay for their tests and treatments? That would be my guess. And it is disgusting that these boards have denied these people testing and treatment. It not only is gross negligence and malpractice, it is criminal.

    When you ask these questions what other, possible answer is there? Mass collusion or mass malpractice? They all are either hiding and covering this up, or they are all grossly incompetent and need to lose their licenses to practice medicine!

    Thank you for exposing this continued debacle! Support foundations that fight for the rights of those sick with Lyme Disease. Demand investigations of the these criminal actions both within our government and those “other” organizations from your legislatures!

  5. I am a patient of Dr. Stricker’s and am positive for Lyme. I 100% contracted it sexually from my husband as I never go into wooded areas or had any interaction in areas with ticks. Please believe me when I say it is a sexually transmitted disease. If I had known this sooner, I would’ve sought treatment 2 years ago when my husband was diagnosed.

  6. Well, this is how I got lyme. I had a date with a woman that was bitten by a tick 2 weeks before and was starting abx treatment.

    I could feel the “animal” going up the urinary tract for a few days and then in several months it travelled from the base of the spine up to the cerebellum. There it still is ofcourse. But ofcourse it could be that I allready had the infection and that some secundairy infection from my date triggered an immune weaking that made it possible for the Lyme to become active. Within 1 week after the date my whole body was covered in large red spots, migrans all over

  7. WOW! I am really glad I did some research on this topic. I have recently started a relationship with a GREAT woman who has chronic lyme. Our intimacy has been nothing more than kissing. Obviously, this is a topic her and I need to discuss. Robyn, your post is sooooo relevant.

  8. I am considering having my 17.5 yr old tested for Lyme if I can convince her Dr to sign the labs….she has been in a relationship for awhile now and I know they have had oral sex. Should I be concerned?

  9. I think I also gave it to my wife. I got bit in 1995 & had headaches & low level tiredness for years. Symptoms gradually grew over 16 years & finally one day BAM! Full steam ahead into chronic Lyme land.

    My wife was developing other infections & issues along the way, with always something popping up & then going away. She too is getting very tired, but ever so gradually. She is becoming more like me when you could not tell it was an infection & everything seemed “normal.”

    I check my own blood under a microscope & since getting sick I see a correlation between the spirochetes in my blood & my symptoms. The more symptoms I get, the more spirochetes I have and this is only from a pinch of blood from my finger. I am covered in billions, and billions, & billions of these. I would not be surprised if I shed them from my skin either.

    I also find the spirochetes in her blood, but they are not prevalent to the extent they are in my blood. She is a ticking time bomb, just like i was.

    • Oh, I failed to mention that I love, love, love the outdoors & would jump anywhere & into anything as long as it is nature.

      She is the exact opposite & is an indoor, dancing, party gal who does not like to get dirty in nature.

  10. I have been diagnosed with Lyme and my LLMD believes my husband gave it to me. Afterall, when we had our initial visit, going through the symptoms, I did have many of them, but my husband had ALL of them! He has been diagnosed with so many things, but he refuses to see the dr. and get tested now! I am going crazy just trying to convince him about it.


  11. I worked for a dentist years ago whose wife had a nearly debilitating case of Lyme disease. It wasn’t long before he soon had muscle aches, headaches and joint pain. He would joke around about having sympathy lyme symptoms.. In hindsight I think he probably contracted it from her.

  12. This is devastating news for me. I just met a super girl and she told me she had Lyme disease for the past 6 years but that anti-biotics had failed to fully treat her and that she still gets very fatigued from time to time.

    We’ve been (very) intimate and naturally I’m concerned that I may have contracted or am about to contract it. What bothers me the most is that apparently there was a vaccine that was withdrawn from the market in 2001/2 because of low demand.

    As this is a fluid borne illness and the pathogen was found in 100% of genital secretions from females with Lyme, then it seems like a straightforward fact that it’s only a matter of time and chance before it spreads from one partner to another – just like any other STD.

    I wish this was more widely known…

  13. I was diagnosed with Lyme and 3 co-infections last summer. I am very symptomatic. My husband got tested, and they found spirochetes in his blood. I am the only one doing any treatment, as he doesn’t have any symptoms. We have always had sex unprotected since we met, and were tested for all stds, and came up clean! After having sex with him, I get major flare ups. I really do believe it is sexually transmitted. I’m planning to write everyone I can to warn them – CDC, government officials, hospital administrators – etc. We need to get the word out NOW!!!! We need covered treatment, doctors who care, access to the best medical treatments, and community understanding. I live in California and people here are like Lyme – huh? What’s that?

  14. I like this article and it totally make sense. I have had chronic (12+yrs) Lyme with co-infections and have only been diagnosed and treated for the last four or five years maybe. My Dr. is not LLMD, there is not one in Arkansas. He has done his best to treat my disease with antibiotics and only three months of IV antibiotics per my insurance that felt that was all that was necessary for a cure, lol.

    My Dr. felt that it was sexually transmitted as well and tested my Husband whom tested positive on western blot as well. My Dr. gave my Husband about 3 months of oral antibiotics and I guess he felt that was sufficient for now. Its been about a year now since he was off abx. and seems very tired all of the time, can’t kick bronchitis, has aches and pains sometimes in legs and mood fluctuations. I’m sure some of this could be due to male hormonal fluctuations because he is in his mid forties. I sure wish this world would wake up and take the statistics seriously !!! More cases than breast cancer !!! We can only hope that one day there will be a specific month dedicated to Lyme Disease, and that Lyme Green will be worn at NFL games…..

    • Just to let you know, May is Lyme month when we try to make people aware of Lyme Disease… We wear the lime coloured ribbons and this year we are encouraging people to tie lime ribbons around their trees in their yard. Education is the key at this time…including, and especially our Doctors. I have had Lyme disease and some of the co-infections for several years…(hard to pinpoint when I was first infected) Am now having to go outside of Canada to get the treatment as chronic Lyme isn’t recognized here…

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