Uncovering Neural and Immune Mechanisms of Chronic Pain in Post Treatment Lyme Syndrome (PTLS)


New York State Psychiatric Institute




Post Treatment Lyme Syndrome (PTLS)
Chronic Pain


Drug: Milnacipran and D-cycloserine

Study type


Funder types



7003 (Other Identifier)

Details and patient eligibility


This study will investigate (a) neural and immune mechanisms underlying chronic pain in PTLS by comparing a group of PTLS patients and healthy participants on brain imaging, sensory, and immune markers; and (b) assess change in pain, brain imaging (fMRI and MRS), sensory, and immune markers in response to a combination of SNRI and glutamatergic treatment for chronic pain in PTLS (Milnacipran and D-cycloserine).

Full description

At least 5-15% of patients with Lyme disease (7,500-45,000 new cases a year) develop Post-treatment Lyme Syndrome (PTLS) - debilitating residual symptoms that last months to years, even after having received antibiotic treatment. Often patients with PTLS experience chronic pain in their muscles or joints or nerves. Because many PTLS patients have pain that persists despite antibiotics and because we know that medicines which modulate the pain pathways in the brain can help to reduce or eliminate pain, we plan to treat patients with a medicine that is FDA approved for the treatment of pain. This medicine is known as Milnacipran (the trade name is "Savella"); this medicine is not addictive and it has been shown to reduce chronic pain by its multiple actions on pain pathways. All patients in the study will be treated with this FDA approved medicine. Second, we wish to test whether the pain can be improved even further by adding a medicine which is known to modulate the glutamate transmission involved with pain in the brain. This medicine - D-Cycloserine - is actually an antibiotic, currently FDA approved for the treatment of tuberculosis. Because of its action on glutamate receptors, we are hypothesizing that it will help to decrease pain even further in patients with Lyme-related pain. In order to test this hypothesis, after 6 weeks of being on Milnacipran, all patients will then be given an additional treatment - either D-Cycloserine or a placebo pill (a placebo is a pill that does not contain any active medication.) At the end of 12 weeks, we will then evaluate improvement compared to when the patient started in the study using the same clinical and neuroimaging (fMRI) tests. Finally, we want to know whether patients with PTLS have over-active central pain circuits in the brain. Because pain is processed through the brain's pain circuits, we wish to examine whether people suffering from PTLS have hyper-active pain circuits that make them more sensitive to pain than those who have normally-active pain circuits. To do this, we will be comparing patients with PTLS to healthy volunteers by conducting careful neurologic and brain imaging (fMRI) studies. We hope that this study will provide valuable information about how the brain processes pain signals in PTLS and about whether this treatment approach is effective.


4 patients




18 to 55 years old


Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  1. History of Lyme Disease and treatment:
  2. Current chronic pain in the musculoskeletal system
  3. clinically troubling sensory hypersensitivity (e.g., light or touch)
  4. Able to speak and read English
  5. Willing to not take other than study centrally acting pharmacologic agents prior to MRI and for the duration of treatment with study medications

Exclusion criteria

  1. Diagnosis of another (not LYME) general medical condition that has a major role in the onset, severity, exacerbation or maintenance of pain, or sensory hypersensitivity.
  2. DSM-IV Axis I lifetime diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Autism, Psychotic disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Substance dependence.
  3. I current diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder or substance abuse
  4. History of head injury with loss of consciousness (>5min), neurologic disease, seizures (excluding febrile seizures) or serious unstable medical condition (e.g. cancer, diabetes)
  5. Current or recent (last month) opiate use
  6. For 2 weeks prior to MRI and diagnostic visit, unable to be free of centrally active medications or treatment methods. These include medications commonly used to treat pain (eg, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, centrallyacting analgesics), as well as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, biofeedback, tender and trigger point injections, acupuncture, and anesthetic or narcotic patches. PRN doses of short acting medications, e.g. acetaminophen, aspirin, and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory agents will be allowed for pain with usage carefully monitored, but patients must be willing to be off of these medications for 24 hours prior to the major evaluations at intake and MRI study visit. Stable doses of non-benzodiazepines will be allowed for sleep (but not tricyclics)
  7. Ferromagnetic implants (e.g. pacemaker, etc.)
  8. Metal Braces or Retainers
  9. Transdermal medicinal patches that cannot be removed
  10. Birth at < 37 weeks gestational age (prior studies have shown dramatic effects on brain structure and function in prematurely born children)
  11. Claustrophobia
  12. Women will be excluded if they are pregnant, lactating, or not either surgically-sterile or using appropriate methods of birth control. Women must agree to continue using applicable birth control throughout the trial. All women of child-bearing potential must have a negative pregnancy test at the intake visit.
  13. Inability to reliably rate intensity of pain in response to a fixed thermal stimulus
  14. Inability to tolerate sound intensity of fMRI
  15. Individuals currently successfully treated by medications for their pain.
  16. History of inability to tolerate treatment with SSRI or SNRI medications or d-cycloserine; or medication induced mania
  17. Renal insufficiency or congestive heart failure
  18. Hepatic malfunction Liver Test

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Factorial Assignment


Double Blind

4 participants in 2 patient groups, including a placebo group

Milnacipran augmented by D-cycloserine
Active Comparator group
participants will be receiving Milnacipran for 12 weeks. During weeks 6-12 participants will be receiving D-cycloserine in addition to Milnacipran
Drug: Milnacipran and D-cycloserine
Milnacipran augmented by Placebo
Placebo Comparator group
participants will be receiving Milnacipran for 12 weeks. During weeks 6-12 participants will be receiving placebo in addition to Milnacipran
Drug: Milnacipran and D-cycloserine

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from clinicaltrials.gov

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