Lyme disease has traditionally been thought of as an infection of the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. But more and more, researchers are coming to understand that ticks carry not only multiple species of Borrelia but also carry many other bacteria known as Lyme co-infections. When people are sick with Lyme disease, they are usually also infected with multiple Lyme co-infections as well.
While it was previously believed that each species of bacteria has a specific set of symptoms that it and only it causes, it's actually more complicated than that, Bill Rawls, MD, an integrative health expert on Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses, tells Bustle. Genetic variations, as well as what other microbes someone's carrying, will affect how their body responds to a particular infection. So, although there seem to be some patterns with particular co-infections, it's very difficult to say which bacteria are causing what symptoms in any given person.
Another thing to understand about Lyme co-infections, along with Lyme disease itself, is that simply carrying them doesn't necessarily mean you will be sick. In fact, some of them are carried by most people. Illness arises when the immune system malfunctions and allows the bacteria to take over, Dr. Rawls says. Carrying Lyme co-infections also doesn't necessarily mean you got them from a tick, he says. Many of them can be transmitted in other ways, although immune suppression from Lyme disease can cause them to become active even if they were latent before.
That said, here are some common Lyme co-infections and the symptoms that tend to be associated with them.