by Wendy Adams, Research Grant Director and Advisory Board Member, Bay Area Lyme Foundation
Recently, we’ve started to hear more about Lyme carditis as one potentially lethal manifestation of Lyme disease. What exactly is it, why does it happen, and how does it cause disease?
What is Lyme Carditis?
First of all, a little Latin. When you see the suffix “-itis”, it denotes inflammation – often caused by an infection. So, carditis literally means inflammation of the heart.
When a Borrelia infection enters the body, we know from animal studies that it disseminates quickly. It tries to find the tissues where it is most comfortable, and often that includes the heart. Borrelia can infect all parts of the heart – the myocardium, the pericardium, and the endocardium, the cardiac muscle, the valves, and even the aorta itself. The immune system senses the presence of the spirochete bacteria and induces inflammation, the first prong of the immune system’s response.