It’s a medical fact that chronic Lyme Disease symptoms, especially that suite of neurological effects called neuroborreliosis, are sometimes mistaken for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). It’s not too much of a cognitive leap to wonder: is it possible that LD could cause AD in the first place?

alzheimers link to lyme disease

There may be a link between Lyme Disease and Alzheimer's.

At the risk of trying to tie everything up into too neat a package, the truth is that there may, in fact, be a link between these two devastating illnesses. It’s too early to say for sure, but recent research conducted by Lyme pioneer Alan MacDonald is intriguing and suggestive.

The Frankenstein Gene

In Part I of this article, we discussed how MacDonald’s study of the brains of 10 Alzheimer’s patients in the mid-2000s revealed the presence of an odd strain of DNA in seven — genetic material that was part human and part spirochetal, linked up in one molecule to code for proteins that cause neuroborreliosis.

Such a fusion of disparate genetic material can happen through a process called “transfection.”  Was this a clue that the AD suffered by these patients was the result of an old, unrecognized or long-forgotten LD infection?

The possibility seemed reasonable to MacDonald, who knew that syphilis, a disease caused by a spirochete very similar to Borrelia, can cause dementia decades down the road. In fact, syphilitic dementia (a.k.a. general paresis) is nearly identical in expression to Alzheimer’s dementia.

It seemed rational, then, to wonder if a Borrelia infection could cause a similar dementia, if given enough time. If that were the case, might the result also be something like Alzheimer’s disease—or even Alzheimer’s itself?

The Plaques

Alzheimer’s Disease causes the formation of cell-destroying plaques in the brain of the sufferer. MacDonald found that many of the plaques in his samples were rich in the hybrid human/spirochetal DNA he’d found, suggesting that those Alzheimer’s plaques at least were associated with Lyme.

He also noted that there were rounded structures within the plaques that looked like bacterial cysts. Other researchers have reported that Borrelia spirochetes can form cysts when they go into hibernation. Are these plaques collections of Borrelia cysts, at least in part? Is Alzheimer’s a very late stage LD infection?

MacDonald thinks that this is possible. He also thinks that the presence of the hybrid DNA might even trigger the autoimmune response that some researchers have been claiming, for years, really causes chronic Lyme symptoms — at least in those patients they don’t claim are delusional or liars.

Other Dementias

While MacDonald’s claims have not yet been proven to anyone’s satisfaction, he argues, cogently enough, that if the Lyme spirochete can cause Alzheimer’s, it may be partially or wholly responsible for other neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and Parkinson’s Disease.

All these are degenerative conditions for which no direct cause is currently known.

The fact that many MS, ALS, and Parkinson’s patients test positive for Borrelia strengthens his case. Furthermore, brain cells of patients who have died from those illnesses often contain unexplained spherical bodies. MacDonald argues that they could be encysted Borrelia burgdorferi spirochetes.

Where We Are Now

Dr. MacDonald’s evidence isn’t a smoking gun and certainly requires replication, but it’s compelling. It’s remains to be seen how the science plays out; but if the connection between Lyme Disease symptoms and dementia proves to be valid, this discovery will certainly revolutionize the treatment of all these diseases.