Rocephin (ceftriaxone) is a cephalosporin antibiotic commonly used to treat many kinds of bacterial infections, including severe or life-threatening forms such as meningitis. It’s a favorite go-to antibiotic in these cases because of its well-known ability to cross the blood-brain barrier (see study). For this reason may doctors and LLMDs have been prescribing rocephin to patients suffering from neuroborreliosis or Lyme infection that has entered the brain. In these cases, rocephin is administered intravenously through injection or PICC line.

Most LLMDs I’ve talked to will tell you two things about IV rocephin:

  1. It will give you relief from neuroborreliosis, but it will not cure you of Lyme disease

A 2011 study shows that higher doses and prolonged use of rocephin will cause “biliary sludge” that can turn into gall stones comprised mostly of rocephin itself. This can happen within 3 to 22 days of administration of the drug and it has been seen to occur in 15 to 46% of the patients studied. Sludge can also occur in the urinary tract [1], and sometimes even gallstone pancreatitis or acute inflammation of the gall bladder can occur [8]. The main risk factors for biliary sludge or gall stones was high daily dosages (over 2 grams daily) and a long term duration of drug therapy (see study).

Further, a 2004 study shows that children were prone to gall bladder and urinary tract complications after only 4-9 days of rocephin treatment (see study). Both studies show that the above complications may be reversible in adults and children if rocephin is discontinued, but it can take from 2 to 63 days for the organs to recover.

To make matters worse for Lyme patients, the bacteria likes to hide in detox glands like the gall bladder, so in many cases, Lyme patients’ gall bladders are already compromised. Introducing another aggravating agent into the mix will cause the gland to shut down.

None of these factors seem to deter doctors from prescribing IV rocephin when neuro Lyme is present and many patients I talk to seem willing to take the risk of losing their gall bladder in order to get relief, albeit only for a few months. I know because I was one of those patients.

In 2005, I was so underwater from neuro Lyme that I wanted to resort to a “nuclear option” to get the infection out of my body. Aside from the two warnings my own LLMD had given me, I was more than willing to take the risk because I didn’t know of any other options besides antibiotics that were available to me at the time.

I was lucky enough to avoid having my gall bladder damaged, but I received heart damage during the PICC installation that almost killed me and took years to repair. I also suffered from a dangerous CDIFF infection that can also be a major side effect of IV rocephin.

Once the PICC was removed and rocephin was discontinued, I felt good for 3 months but then the infection re-emerged and I felt worse than I had prior to the rocephin treatment.

My LLMD explained what had happened. The rocephin had been effective in killing a good amount of Lyme bacteria while I was on the PICC, but it also caused it to go into dormancy, according to him. He prescribed another round of IV rocephin again and this time I suffered massive headaches and further gut problems. Three months after the second PICC was removed, the infection returned and I felt worse than ever.

According to well-known Lyme expert Dr. Lee Cowden, what had really occurred was as soon as the rocephin entered my blood stream, the Lyme bacteria went into a reactive or self-defense state. It formed “biofilms” that acted as a shield to keep rocephin and any other antibiotics away. It also created “cysts” or ball versions of the spirochete that allowed the bacteria to migrate throughout the body, going outside the bloodstream into areas that antibiotics couldn’t reach (see photo).

According to Cowden, while studies show that a round of antibiotics within the first 60 days of infection can stop Lyme disease, antibiotic use after this milestone can actually cause the bacteria to defend itself and go into a hyper reproductive state. In other words, introducing rocephin for late stage Lyme was like fighting a fire with gasoline.

The problem is, the Lyme patient may begin to feel better during antibiotic treatment but as soon as the antibiotics are discontinued, major symptoms emerge. And this is the confusing loop that many patients find themselves in, thinking they need to continue antibiotic treatment to get minor relief when in fact the drugs are causing the bacteria to migrate deeper into the system. This situation can feel like relief until the antibiotics stop and the symptoms come back harder than ever.

So what can a chronic Lyme patient do? There are many effective herbal treatments that do not cause the Lyme bacteria to defend itself or reproduce, and studies show that one herbal in particular. whole-leaf stevia, is more effective than antibiotics in treating spirochetes, biofilm and cyst versions of Lyme bacteria (see study).

Now that I am on the other side of this situation, I look back at how foolhardy I was in diving into rocephin treatment and having it administered through a dangerous PICC line that threatened my life. Not only was this risky and damaging, it actually worsened the Lyme infection. It took me years to recover and I didn’t start feeling better until I went on herbal treatments.

Still to this day I see the Lyme message boards full of patients unabashedly announcing that they have just gotten their gall bladders out due to lengthy rocephin treatment. As patients, can we take a step back and look at what is happening? We are willing to give up organs in order to get back to some semblance of the life we had before. That’s how awful we can feel. It would be nice if our doctors could give us some treatment options that weren’t so dangerous and destructive.


The above material is provided for informational purposes only. The material is not nor should be considered a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

LymeWoke Blog: Rocephin and Gall Bladder Damage

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