Could a common sweetener that's already in the kitchen cupboards in many American homes — stevia — prove to be an effective treatment for a disease as debilitating and persistent as Lyme disease?
It's too early to say that for sure, but research by Eva Sapi, a University of New Haven professor of cellular and molecular biology, and the students in her Lyme Disease Research Group looks promising.
In a paper published in the European Journal of Microbiology & Immunology, Sapi and her students found that the most antibiotic resistant form of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease — called biofilm — actually increased in mass with individual antibiotics.
But liquid, whole-leaf stevia extract — not the powdered varieties that people most commonly use — reduced the biofilm mass by about 40 percent, they found.
"Is it the one?" Sapi asked. "I don't know." But in confirmation test after confirmation test, "that is the one that jumped out."
A small clinical trial based out of New York got underway just a few months ago, and researchers there are using stevia along with antibiotics to try and treat Lyme disease, while others are taking the extract themselves.
I've got emails from people saying they're getting better, but again, we need to have double-blind clinical trials before we say ‘yes'. Everybody is holding their breath to see if it helps, and let's hope for it. That would be wonderful.
– Professor Eva Sapi, Ph.D.
Let's hope that happens.