As it is known, the essential oils of aromatic plants possess antiseptic properties. However, now, according to researchers from the Bloomberg School of Public Health of Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore (which published the results of their study in the scientific journal Antibiotics, several of these substances can also contribute significantly to fighting one of the most insidious infections of recent years: Lyme disease, spread by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, through ticks. In the United States alone, around 300,000 people are infected every year.
The disease can be treated effectively by some antibiotics, but the bacteria develops resistance and remains dormant in approximately 10-20% of patients, and can be reactivated even after a long period of time, with consequences that can become very serious. To counter these complications, various groups of researchers around the world have been searching for possible remedies for years to cure the disease once and for all.
The researchers from Johns Hopkins analyzed the effectiveness of 35 essential oils, discovering that ten of them in very low doses (one part per thousand) were effective against latent Borrelia burgdorferi. In particular, the oils deriving from garlic bulbs, allspice berries, myrrh, ginger and lilies appeared capable of killing the Borrelia in seven days (after 21 days there was no longer any traces of the bacteria). The oil found in thyme leaves, cumin seeds and cinnamon bark oil also appeared to be highly effective. For now, only in vitro tests have been carried out, but the researchers intend to check these substances also on animals as soon as possible and, if the results are positive, on human volunteers.
Lyme disease was given this name because the first case was described in the US village of the same name, around forty years ago. It mostly affects the skin, the nervous system and the joints, but also several internal organs. It is also widespread in Europe and is transmitted, as already stated, by ticks, which in turn are infected when they bite several kinds of wild animals (rodents, wolves, hares, roe deer and others) that act as “reservoirs” of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. The illness generally manifests itself in the form of a red spot (erythema) that slowly spreads. Other symptoms of the disease are fever, headache, fatigue and muscular pain. If not diagnosed and treated appropriately, other disturbances may appear over the following weeks (or months), such as meningoencephalitis, myalgia, migratory arthralgia, cardiac conduction disturbances, chronic arthritis and many others. At present vaccines are not available, at least in Europe.
Journalist since 1983, has been dealing with scientific divulgation for years, especially in the fields of medicine and biology. Creator of Sportello Cancro, the site created by corriere.it on oncology, in collaboration with the Umberto Veronesi Foundation. He collaborated with the pages of the Science of Corriere della Sera for several years. He is currently President of the Lugano Science Foundation.