Stevia, a common sugar alternative, could be a potential cure for Lyme disease following ongoing clinical trials.
Lyme disease is one of the fastest-growing infections in the Western world caused by a tick bite.
Its long-term effects can be crippling if it’s not caught and treated quickly, and cause a string of symptoms including fatigue, headaches and a high body temperature.
But now, a professor who has battled with the illness for 15 years, believes to have found a solution.
Dr Eva Sapi, an academic and researcher at the University of New Haven, conducted tests on the sweetener, and found that it combats the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
The sugary substance has proven much more effective in killing the bacteria than antibiotics.
Her research was first published in the European Journal of Microbiology and Immunology in 2015, and she and researchers have still found that this is the best treatment.
And now, Dr Sapi explained, there are ongoing clinical trials to test if the sugar-substitute could be the cure.
The trials are being conducted in Hyde Park, New York, by Dr Richard Horowitz, a doctor specializing in Lyme disease and curing patients with the illness.
‘They’re going well as far as I’m aware. I got an email from one of Dr Horowitz’ patients, who said it appears to be working,’ Dr Sapi told Daily Mail Online.
Her interest in a cure for Lyme disease began when she was diagnosed with the illness in 2002.
‘It was just after I’d gotten my first full time position teaching and doing research at the University of New Haven, and I started experiencing dizziness, nausea and fatigue,’ Dr Sapi said. ‘I even started having memory issues and some problems talking.’
After months of tests, she was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease.
‘I thought doctors were giving up on me. I didn’t have any of the physical signs, just the neurological signs. So they finally did an MRI and saw holes, they said it looked like I had Lyme brain,’ Dr Sapi explained.
‘It was scary to learn that there has been a lot of research but there are no known cures for the disease.’
Dr Sapi is now in remission, and said she was cured by a number of things, including a compound anti-microbiotic medicine, infrared sauna use, and a lifestyle change.
Once she regained her strength, she said she immediately went to work to research different cures for Lyme disease.
‘I worked with two students to take the Stevia plant extract and see if it worked to fight Lyme disease,’ she said.
Dr Sapi explained that they decided to look at Stevia after another researcher found that sugar was working to ‘wake up’ dormant bacteria, called persisters.
These persisters, she discovered through her research, are protected by a biofilm, which allows it to lay dormant and keeps antibiotics from killing it.
‘They are called sleepers and persisters, because no combinations of antibiotics were working, and there was no way to wake them up so they could be killed,’ she said.
In her research, Dr Sapi found that a specific extract of Stevia is effective in killing the Lyme disease causing agent Borrelia burgdorferi, in addition to preventing biofilm formation.
‘Then we did some research, and found out it’s been used in Japan for centuries as a microbiotic agent,’ Dr Sapi said.
‘And every time we’ve tested it so far it’s worked, we just need to see the results from the chemical trials.’
Dr Richard Horowitz, who is conducting the clinical trials, said the discovery and continuing research is ‘exciting.’
‘People have been searching for a long time for a cure to Lyme, so it’s exciting for there to be a new avenue in something that could end up being a worldwide epidemic in just a few years,’ he told Daily Mail Online.
‘My research is looking at a pool of 200 people with the disease, and based on what we’ve seen so far all symptoms seem to have significantly improved in the patients,’ he explained.
Lyme disease has received a lot of attention internationally in recent years as supermodel Bella Hadid has spoken up about her personal battle.
The 20-year-old was diagnosed with the ailment in 2012 and forced her to give up her dream of being an Olympic equestrian. Bella’s mother, Yolanda, and younger brother Anwar have both also been diagnosed with Lyme.