Lyme New Zealand


What is Lyme Disease?

It is a malicious systemic infection of the body caused by the bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), which has a spiral shape giving it a spirochete classification. In 1981 researcher Willy Burgdorfer discovered this new pathogen belonging to the genus Borrelia in ticks (bloodsucking parasites). Hence the bacterial strain was named Borrelia burgdorferi, after its discoverer. Following its identification, research established that Borrelia burgdorferi is the cause of Lyme Disease in humans; a condition initially recognised around the town Old Lyme, Connecticut, in the United States of America during the 1970’s by researcher Allen Steere. The medical name then evolved as Lyme Borreliosis, and in Germany, the condition is referred to as Borreliose. Interestingly, it has been documented that Borrelia DNA have been found in a frozen ‘iceman’ dating back 5300 years ago!

Lyme Disease is presenting worldwide in temperate climates where the tick thrives in low growing vegetation, and even in home gardens. Whilst New Zealand is not known to have the particular tick placing humans at risk, our close neighbour, Australia, has many Lyme sufferers. On a global scale, Lyme is a potent emerging epidemic disease. New Zealander's travelling overseas, for example to Europe, Australia, Asia and the U.S., can naturally be subjected to contracting the infection; often unknowingly. We return to New Zealand where medical professionals are not specialised in treatment approaches for this debilitating condition.

  Black legged tick on grass blade.

  Black legged tick on grass blade.

Lyme Disease Symptoms

Magnified image of a tick inserting its feeding tube into skin to feed on blood, often inserting its own anesthetic so you are unaware of the bite.

Magnified image of a tick inserting its feeding tube into skin to feed on blood, often inserting its own anesthetic so you are unaware of the bite.

An acute Lyme disease symptom is the characteristic rash called Erythema migrans: an expanding red ring (also known as bull’s eye rash), or spot, at the location of the tick bite. Flu-like complaints, such as headache, stiff neck, fever, muscle aches and fatigue, are further initial symptoms. However, many of these symptoms, including the rash, do not occur in all people.

In chronic Lyme disease, various symptoms can develop because Lyme disease is a multi-system infection presenting clinically in neurological (nervous system/brain), dermatological (skin), rheumatological (muscles and joints), cardiological (heart), ophthalmological (eyes) and psychiatric (cognition, personality, behaviour) symptoms.

Symptoms and the course of the disease also differ between children and adults, as well as between men and women, but generally many of the same symptoms occur. In particular, variations may occur in relation to the co-infection status of the patient. (See Lyme Disease co-infections).


Lyme disease is largely a clinical diagnosis since laboratory tests do not necessarily provide reliable results. This is due to the unique behavioural nature of the bacterium in the body.  Consequently, the physician may need to diagnose on the basis of the medical history, history of tick bite or tick exposure, signs and symptoms, and results of physical examination, in combination with other data such as Lyme and co-infection lab test results, and exclusion of other diagnoses. Many patients suffer misdiagnoses, often for many years, in the course of their health deterioration where Lyme infections are mistaken for other illnesses and diseases.

Upon seeing a typical Lyme skin rash a doctor should make the diagnosis "Lyme disease", because of its specificity to the condition


Laboratory Tests

Specifically, Lyme disease blood tests look for antibodies. The most common types of tests used are the ELISA and blot (immunoblot and western blot) tests. These look for IgG and IgM antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferi. If a patient tests positive, it indicates spirochete presence, but this does not necessarily point to an active infection, because the antibodies remain in the body after the infection is gone. The concentration (Lyme titre) goes down in time.

These tests are to support a clinical diagnosis. A diagnosis should not be made on the basis of lab test results alone. For various reasons the tests results can give both false positive and false negative results. Such tests are not 100% sensitive and specific. Usually a certain diagnosis cannot be established, only the most probable. This can cause complications and controversial debate in diagnostics for patients and the medical profession.

Lyme Disease Treatment

Lyme disease has a higher cure rate with antibiotics provided the treatment happens in an acute stage of the infection. When one has been infected for a longer time, it becomes more difficult to treat Lyme Disease successfully. Symptoms may remain after treatment and it is subject to debate as to what is causing those symptoms; whether it is still caused by an infection with the Lyme bacterium, a co-infection, or something else.

Most Lyme disease guidelines advise antibiotic treatment duration ranging from one week to one month and only if there is clear evidence that the infection has not been eradicated, a longer or repeated course of antibiotics is advised. It has to date not been scientifically established that such treatments have a high success rate.

Antibiotics for Lyme Disease

Several types of antibiotics are used in the allopathic treatment of Lyme, including common antibiotics like Doxycycline,Amoxicillin and Azithromycin, which can be taken orally. Sometimes the antibiotic is administered intravenously (IV), particularly when the drug of choice is Ceftriaxone (Rocephin), which cannot be taken orally.

Other antibiotics used include: Minocycline, Tetracycline, Cefuroxim, and Clarithromycin. Some doctors may experiment with other types of antibiotics, or combinations of antibiotics.

Chronic Lyme Disease

In the 1980’s through 90’s the term "chronic Lyme disease" was mostly used as a synonym for "late stage Lyme disease". However, at the turn of this century some medical professionals, especially in the United States, began to use this term to refer to post-treatment Lyme disease symptoms, supposedly without objective evidence of previous, or current infection. Post-treatment infection and continuing use of antibiotics continues to be a controversial subject with regard to Lyme disease.

Lyme Disease Co-infections

Lyme disease is not the only tick-borne disease. Ticks can also be carriers of other pathogens besides Borrelia burgdorferi, hence the tick is often referred to as “nature’s dirty needle”. These infections are often called co-infections, particularly when they coexist with the Lyme disease bacterium. Worldwide, various co-infections occur, sometimes limited to a specific region, such as in the Unites States, Australia, Africa or Europe.

Examples of other common tick-borne co-infections are: Rickettsia, Chlamydia pneumonia, Bartonella, Babesia, Anaplasma (Erhlichia), tick-borne Encephalitis Virus (TBEV). A single tick can carry multiple types of such pathogens. Other opportunistic co-infections, such as viruses and mycoplasma, can also present as a significant part of the patient’s condition due to the overall immune system challenge.

The co-infection possibilities largely contribute to the varying symptoms between people infected with Borreliosis thus a need exists to also have specific lab testing and appropriate treatment for co-infections.

How Symphony of Herbs Can Assist You With Your Lyme Disease Recovery in New Zealand:

Allopathic medicine for people with Lyme disease involves extensive use of antibiotics that have variable positive and negative consequences on body function. Herbal medicine can be highly beneficial for people when used alone or in conjunction with medications to minimize the side effects of drugs. Herbs can reduce a Herxheimer reaction, which occurs when your body is reacting to the toxins released by the pathogens being eliminated.  They can also strengthen the immune system and address debilitating symptoms of Lyme disease, such as anxiety, heart function irregularity, adrenal exhaustion, chronic fatigue and pain, brain fog, mould sensitivities and digestive symptoms.

Symphony of Herbs provides comprehensive consultations to assist New Zealand Lyme patients nationwide by:

  1. Obtaining your detailed health history to establish the development of the Lyme infection.
  2. Assessing current signs and symptoms, and your present treatment regime.
  3. Establishing a medical referral to Lyme disease specialist, Dr Harald Bennefeld M.D., in Germany. The referral entails appropriate Lyme disease and co-infection testing, and a recommended Lyme treatment approach. These include the most recently researched diagnostics and treatment strategies for Lyme as Germany is a global leader in working with Lyme patients.
  4. Introducing herbal medicine to support your immunity, and your body as a whole.
  5. Working with you and your family for nutrition planning to enhance your recovery.
  6. Providing lifestyle advice to facilitate optimal healing.
  7. Communicating with your local NZ doctor, especially if you are taking existing medication.

Please note that skype and phone Lyme consultations are available upon request with Medical Herbalist, Sara Mertens, at Symphony of Herbs.