Lyme can be sexually transmitted. In this article I review the science behind this statement and the risk that I believe exists. I also answer the following questions:
Q: Should I have my healthy sexual partner tested for Lyme disease?
Q: But shouldn’t I have my sexual partner tested to prevent him or her from transmitting the germ back to me during or after treatment?
Q: Should I tell my new sexual partner that I have Lyme? Should we use condoms?
How We Know Lyme Disease is Sexually Transmitted
The Lyme infection, borrelia, can be sexually transmitted. However we do not know the actual rate or chance of transmission. There is limited science around this topic, but here it is.
- Studies do show borellia in vaginal fluid and male ejaculate of those who have positive testing with Lyme disease (1, 2).
- In one recent study, 13 people with lyme were studied. Of the 13 studied 3 were sexual partners. All 13 had evidence of Lyme in the genital secretions. The sexual partners in each of these studies had identical strains of borrelia (Lyme) detected in the male ejaculate and vaginal fluid. However the researchers did not clarify the length between sexual activity of each couple and when the specimens were obtained. Nor is there scientific evidence indicating how long borrelia can persist in the vaginal fluid after male ejaculation. Thus it is possible the detection of identical strains in the female partner could be from male secretions in the vaginal fluid rather than her own vaginal secretions. In addition, it is possible each person in the couple were independently bitten by ticks which each carried the same strain. Furthermore this study only included 13 people. Small studies of this nature often do not reflect what happens in the general population.
- Lyme is a spirochete like syphilis which is well know to be sexually transmitted.
- Most Lyme Literate Medical Doctors (LLMD) treat married and other committed partners who both have Lyme disease.
- The actual sexual transmission rate is not known.
On a positive note, in my experience most who get a Lyme infection through sexual transmission do not develop Lyme disease. I believe most people have immune systems that are able to rid the body of the Lyme infection or keep it under control.