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National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Friday, June 28, 1996

Media Contact:
John Bowersox
(301) 402-1663

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NIAID Awards Contract for Post-Lyme Disease Syndrome Studies

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has awarded a five-year contract to the New England Medical Center (NEMC) in Boston, Mass., to study the pathogenesis and treatment of post-Lyme disease syndrome (PLDS). Mark Klempner, M.D., is the principal investigator of the $4.2 million study.

"This research will help us answer important questions regarding the nature of Lyme disease sequelae and the most effective treatment for individuals affected by this syndrome," saysNIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

Lyme disease is caused by infection with the tick-borne spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Since 1982, when the organism was first identified by NIAID scientists, more than 50,000 cases of Lyme disease have been reported in the United States. Patients usually are treated successfully in the early stages of the disease with a two- to four-week course of oral antibiotics. Additional treatment with intravenous antibiotics may be required in some cases. Several months after patients with the initial symptoms of Lyme disease have been treated, some of them develop PLDS, a condition also known as chronic Lyme disease and characterized by persistent musculoskeletal and peripheral nerve pain, fatigue and memory impairment.

"There is much uncertainty about the pathogenesis of PLDS. We don't know if it is caused by ongoing active infection with B. burgdorferi or another tick-borne pathogen, or if PLDS symptoms result from reinfection," says John R. La Montagne, Ph.D., director of NIAID's Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. "Inflammatory or autoimmune responses occurring during early infection, prior to treatment with antibiotics, may also play a role in PLDS. We also have a lot to learn about its clinical manifestations. This contract will allow us to define this syndrome more precisely and develop rational strategies for treating it."

As contractor, NEMC researchers will work closely with NIAID staff, and collaborate with scientists at New York Medical College, the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, and Tufts University School of Medicine. Studies on the cause or causes of PLDS and the evaluation of potential therapies for patients with PLDS are planned. Treatment success will be measured with a variety of tests that assess symptoms, signs and laboratory manifestations of PLDS.

This contract award to NEMC follows a rigorous objective review process, during which all proposals received under an NIAID solicitation were evaluated and scored by non-government Lyme disease experts. The new study further expands NIAID's growing portfolio of Lyme disease research projects. NIAID currently supports a variety of investigator-initiated studies of the pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease. In addition, intramural scientists from NIAID and other institutes at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are collaborating on Lyme disease studies.

According to NIAID's Phillip Baker, Ph.D., the project officer for the study, the NEMC researchers will work closely with NIH intramural investigators.

"Although these new studies will not supply all the answers with regard to the etiology and treatment of PLDS," says Dr. Baker, "they should provide meaningful information that can help us move toward the development of effective solutions to this problem."

NIAID, a component of the NIH, conducts and supports research to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses such as AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, asthma and allergies. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health ®

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NIAID Archive

Important note: Information on this page was accurate at the time of publication. This page is no longer being updated.

Last Updated June 28, 1996