This week we discussed an interesting case of Lyme Disease in Morning Report.Briefly, a middle-aged lady presented with signs and symptoms of meningitis following recent exposure (5-10 days prior) to a tic bite. The patient was at a cottage in southern Quebec when she found a tic on their leg. A rash developed at the site of the tic bite that had the classic appearance of erythma migrans (EM) (aka erythema chronicum migrans, ECM), which is pathgnomonic for early localized Lyme Disease.
An interesting issue was raised with this case - can Lyme Disease present with meningitis? And if it does, at what stage might you expect to see this?
For this case, it is important to understand the stages of Lyme Disease, as features of Lyme infection present according to a specific timeline of the disease. Notably, earlier features do not necessarily have to appear in order for the later features of the disease to manifest. Also, in a quarter of cases, patient do not even recall having a tic bite.
Fun Fact - The northward spread of Lyme into southern Ontario and Quebec may be linked to warmer temperatures (i.e. Global Warming). (Lyme Disease is named after the town where the earliest cases were discovered - Lyme, Connecticut). See below for reference.
Here are the three stages of Lyme Disease:
1. Early Localized Disease:
- Marked by erythema migrans, seen in more than 80% of patients, appears within 1-2 weeks after exposure.
- EM is often described as an erythematous circular rash having a central clearing; however, it may be uniformly erythematous in up to 50% of patients, especially when the lesion is small.
- Multiple lesions may be present
- Additional features may include lethargy, headache, mild neck stiffness, myalgias, arthralgias, and lymphadenopathy. Rarely can it present as aseptic meningitis. More likely is that these symptoms are confused with meningitis.
2. Early Disseminated Disease
- Occurs weeks-months after exposure if early disease has gone untreated.
- In this phase, systemic features of the disease are seen:
- Therefore, neurological manifestations such as meningitis are far more likely to appear >2 weeks after exposure to the infection.
3. Late Disseminated Disease
- Defined by prominent worsening neurological and MSK symptoms
- MSK: Arthritis of one or more joints, often the knee
- Neurological: Persistent neuropathy, myelitis
The treatment for Lyme Disease includes either doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime. All are safe and effective for early Lyme disease. Treatment should be started on detection of EM lesions in the case of early disease. In disseminated disease, treatment is started on the basis of compatible clinical picture with serology.
Back to the case....
Our patient's LP showed few cells and normal protein. Therefore, her clinical picture was consistent with possible aspetic meningitis, and not due to direct infection of Lyme into the CSF. She was treated for her early localized disease with amoxicillin and improved rapidly with conservative management.
An excellent NEJM article from 2014 summarizes the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme Disease.
Click here for an interesting paper suggesting that Global Warming is contributing to the spread of Lyme Disease.