Incidence of Lyme disease in the United Kingdom and association with fatigue: A population-based, historical cohort study

Florence Brellier*, Mar Pujades-Rodriguez, Emma Powell, Kathleen Mudie, Eliana Mattos Lacerda, Luis Nacul, Kevin Wing

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background Estimations of Lyme disease incidence rates in the United Kingdom vary. There is evidence that this disease is associated with fatigue in its early stage but reports are contradictory as far as long-term fatigue is concerned. Methods and findings A population-based historical cohort study was conducted on patients treated in general practices contributing to IQVIA Medical Research Data: 2,130 patients with a first diagnosis of Lyme disease between 2000 and 2018 and 8,510 randomly-sampled patients matched by age, sex, and general practice, followed-up for a median time of 3 years and 8 months. Main outcome measure was time to consultation for (1) any fatigue-related symptoms or diagnosis; or (2) myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/ CFS). Adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) were estimated from Cox models. Average incidence rate for Lyme disease across the UK was 5.18 per 100,000 person-years, increasing from 2.55 in 2000 to 9.33 in 2018. In total, 929 events of any types of fatigue were observed, leading to an incidence rate of 307.90 per 10,000 person-years in the Lyme cohort (282 events) and 165.60 in the comparator cohort (647 events). Effect of Lyme disease on any subsequent fatigue varied by index season: adjusted HRs were the highest in autumn and winter with 3.14 (95%CI: 1.92–5.13) and 2.23 (1.21–4.11), respectively. For ME/CFS, 17 events were observed in total. Incidence rates were 11.76 per 10,000 person-years in Lyme patients (12 events) and 1.20 in comparators (5 events), corresponding to an adjusted HR of 16.95 (5.17–55.60). Effects were attenuated 6 months after diagnosis but still clearly visible. Conclusions UK primary care records provided strong evidence that Lyme disease was associated with subsequent fatigue and ME/CFS. Albeit weaker on the long-term, these effects persisted beyond 6 months, suggesting patients and healthcare providers should remain alert to fatigue symptoms months to years following Lyme disease diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0265765
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2022


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