Disulfiram is an old drug with a fairly new use—for the treatment of Lyme disease. Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria is transmitted when an infected black-legged tick, also known as deer tick, bites humans. The same tick is also responsible for tick-borne diseases babesiosis, anaplasmosis, and Powassan virus. The first case of Lyme disease was diagnosed in Old Lyme, Connecticut hence its name.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 300,000 people can get Lyme infection in the United States every year, mostly during the summer months. Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, chills, headache, flu, muscle and joint pain, and the majority of patients include a rash from the tick bite. Lyme disease is potentially life-threatening and some may develop Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS) or chronic Lyme disease. However, Lyme disease is curable with early detection and effective treatment by using antibiotics such as doxycycline, amoxicillin, and cefuroxime. Click here for tips on how to prevent Lyme disease.
Disulfiram (Tetraethylthiuram Disulfide) is an FDA-approved oral medication used as alcohol deterrent to help treat alcohol use disorders. It goes by the trade name Antabuse. Disulfiram does not reduce alcohol cravings or withdrawal symptoms but when people who are on it take alcohol, it triggers the hangover effects such as intense headaches. As a result, the appeal of alcohol is lessened, helping maintain sobriety of chronic alcoholics. It was only recently that scientists discovered its powerful effect against Lyme disease.
Turns out, disulfiram is not only an effective alcohol-deterrent medication but it has antimicrobial properties against common bacteria like Staphylococcus and Streptococcus species and even Plasmodium, the parasite that causes malaria. Laboratory studies have also shown that disulfiram is effective in killing the cause of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi. Some patients who developed chronic Lyme disease have also benefited from its antibiotic effects.
The Compounding Center can give you more information about disulfiram and Lyme disease.