The Best Test For Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness spread by Lyme borreliaebacteria which includes, but is not limited to, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are 400,000 cases of Lyme disease annually, making Lyme a serious public health concern that only stands to grow as the spread of ticks affects disease endemicity and seasonality.
One of the biggest challenges of fighting Lyme disease is providing patients with accurate diagnostic tests. Without access to the best tests for Lyme disease, its impossible to diagnose this treatable disease in a timely manner. When the disease isnt caught in time, it can spread throughout the body and cause chronic health problems that could otherwise be avoided with earlier detection and treatment.
Is There An Aphl Guide For Interpreting Lyme Disease Serologic Test Results
New! APHL Guidance and Interpretation of Lyme Disease Serologic Test Results This report describes the proper interpretation of serologic testing for B. burgdorferi and identifies best practices for reporting results to clinicians, public health agencies, and patients.
How long does it take to get Lyme disease test results?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a two-step blood test for diagnosing Lyme disease that looks for antibodies against Lyme disease. These tests require specialized laboratory equipment and can require days or weeks to return results. Faster, more sensitive Lyme test?
An Introduction To Lab Testing
Lyme disease tests can serve as valuable resources for the diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne disease. But its important not to get too hung up on the results.
The problem of chronic Lyme disease, cant be solved exclusively by looking at lab results, which is something I know from personal experience. In fact, becoming overly obsessed with lab results can hinder the recovery process.
Lab work provides a snapshot of whats going on inside your body. But multiple other factors including your symptoms, the length of time youve had them, and clinical presentation, as well as the environments in which you live, work, and travel all factor into making an accurate diagnosis.
Furthermore, the human body is an immensely complex biological machine, with millions of different biochemical functions happening simultaneously. Lab tests provide an ever-so-small glimpse at certain key functions of different systems in the body. From those indicators, determinations can be made about how well the body is functioning and whether illness is present.
Laboratory assessment, however, is far from absolute. Because the human body is so complex, the ability of lab testing to predict a specific chronic illness, such as one from a tick-borne disease, is often limited. All labs are subject to variability and different interpretations.
Don’t Miss: Lyme Disease And Nervous System
Other Lyme Disease Tests
Three other tests that may be used to diagnose Lyme disease are polymerase chain reaction , antigen detection and culture testing. They are called direct tests because they detect the bacteria, not just your immune response to it.
PCR multiplies a key portion of DNA from the Lyme bacteria so that it can be detected. While PCR is highly accurate when the Lyme DNA is detected, it produces many false negatives. This is because the Lyme bacteria are sparse and may not be in the sample tested.
Antigen detection tests look for a unique Lyme protein in fluid . Sometimes people whose indirect tests are negative are positive on this test.
Culture is the gold standard test for identifying bacteria. The lab takes a sample of blood or other fluid from the patient and attempts to grow Lyme spirochetes in a special medium.
Although culture tests are generally accepted as proof of infection, the CDC has advised caution on the only commercially available culture test developed by Advanced Laboratory Services. LDo recognizes that the test is new and requires further validation in other studies. However, we believe that informed patients should be able to choose the test if they prefer. Choice is particularly important given the low quality of Lyme disease tests generally.
Is There A Lyme Disease Test Kit
Blood collection kits are available for at-home Lyme disease testing. Lyme disease test kits can cost as less as $20 and as much as $100 or more. Using a Lyme disease test kit is as simple as pricking your finger and smearing or collecting the blood onto the kit for testing.
However, testing for Lyme disease in a more controlled environment such as a lab or clinic is preferable as qualified healthcare professionals are likely to perform a more reliable test.
Waddell L. A., et al. . The accuracy of diagnostic tests for Lyme disease in humans, a systematic review and meta-analysis of North American research. PLoS One. 2016 11: e0168613. Retrieved from
You May Like: Dr Jay Davidson Lyme Disease
How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed
Though several types of tests do exist for the diagnosis of Lyme disease, the best tests for a Lyme disease diagnosis are blood tests, also known as serological tests. These tests are indirect, meaning they dont detect the infecting bacteria or its antigens but rather the antibodies an infected persons body produces in response to these antigens.
How Can I Tell If Treatment Is Working
If joint lameness is the presenting sign, improvement may be noted after 3-5 days starting antibiotics. A dog’s response to therapy can be assessed by repeating the QC6 test six months after treatment is complete. Dogs that start with a moderate to high QC6 value typically show a 50% reduction or more in the QC6 at six months, indicating that treatment has been successful. Dogs that have a lower initial QC6 value may not show such dramatic reductions in the QC6 at six months, although the value should still be lower than the starting point if treatment has been successful.
A persistently high QC6 suggests treatment may not have been complete or that the dog became reinfected after treatment was stopped.
Recommended Reading: How To Treat Chronic Lyme
Understanding Of Lab Tests Results
Please visit the site associated with The American Association for Clinical Chemistry for better understanding of tests. There you will find the most detailed and full information regarding lab tests. In common questions tab you will find answers on the most common questions.
In addition, you can use a special form to ask the question. It is useful, if there is no answer on your question on the web site. A laboratory scientist will answer your question. It is a part of voluntary service provided by the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science.
The Blood Tests Can Have False Positives
The blood tests can trigger false positives, suggesting that you have the disease when you really dont. This can happen in up to one out of four tests.
This can lead to unnecessary treatment with antibiotics. These drugs are usually safe, but they sometimes cause side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased sensitivity of the skin to sunlight. In rare cases, they can even cause dangerous allergic reactions.
Using too many antibiotics can also lead to the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. This means that bacteria in your body may get stronger and more difficult to treat with antibiotics in the future.
A false positive can also lead to more unneeded blood tests, urine tests, X-rays, and doctor visits.
If you have a false positive, you may not get treated for the real cause of your pain. For example, rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that causes joint pain. It can lead to permanent and severe joint damage if you do not start taking the right medicines as early as possible.
You May Like: Is Lyme Disease Rash Itchy
Questions For Your Doctor After At
If you take an at-home test, you can review the results with your doctor and consider asking some of the following questions:
- Is my at-home test result reliable?
- Is repeat blood testing or any other kind of testing appropriate?
- Are my symptoms consistent with possible Lyme disease?
- If I donât have Lyme disease, what could be causing my symptoms? What tests can help determine this more concretely?
Traditional Lyme Disease Tests Are Not Specific Enough
Lyme disease is caused by the spiral-shaped bacteria Borrelia. There are multiple species and strains of Lyme borreliae . Therefore, tests must be targeted to these multiple species and strains in order to be able to detect them. If a patient is infected with a species or strain of Lyme borreliae that their test cant detect, they will get a false-negative test result and thus risk missing their diagnosis. This can be costly and dangerous.
Many ELISA and Western blot Lyme disease tests are only equipped to detect one strain of one species of Borrelia: Borrelia burgdorferi B31 . This means that those tests are missing infections caused by other strains and/or species of Lyme borreliae.
In one internal study designed to test the validity of the IGeneX ImmunoBlot against traditional Western blot tests, a total of 132 patients were tested by both Lyme Western blots and Lyme IB. 43 patients were seropositive on the ImmunoBlot, and 14 were positive on standard Western blots prepared from a mixture of two species for Bb ss B31 and 297. Thus 29 of the 43 patients tested negative on Western blots i.e., the Western blot totally missed their infections with strains other than Bb ss B31 and 297.
With such limited tests, patients infected with non-B31 species and strains e.g., B. mayonii, B. californiensis, or European species are at risk of receiving false negatives and missing the chance to treat their diseases.
You May Like: How To Kill Lyme Disease Naturally
Where Is Lyme Disease Found
In the United States, Lyme disease has been reported in every state, but over 95% of cases are from the Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwestern states, with a small number of cases reported along the West Coast, especially Northern California. In Canada, Lyme-positive dogs are found mostly in southern Ontario and southern Manitoba, with a small number of cases in southern Quebec and the Maritime provinces.
Testing Beyond The Lab
Certain types of symptoms require evaluation by diagnostic procedures conducted by specialists in their respective fields. These symptoms include:
- Neurological symptoms: Severe neurological symptoms are evaluated with a nerve conduction test and MRI of the brain to assess the nervous system. The purpose is ruling out multiple sclerosis.
- Cardiac symptoms: Heart symptoms like chest pain and irregular heartbeat are evaluated by EKG and Holter monitor . Findings may lead to cardiac catheterization.
- GI symptoms: Stomach pain and symptoms are often evaluated by an upper endoscopy. Lower intestinal and colon symptoms are evaluated by colonoscopy. Routine colon cancer screening with colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years for everyone over 50.
Recommended Reading: How To Cure Lyme Disease Naturally
What The Experts Say
According to the CDC:
- Patients who have had Lyme disease for longer than 4-6 weeks, especially those with later stages of illness involving the brain or the joints, will almost always test positive.
- A patient who has been ill for months or years and has a negative test almost certainly does not have Lyme disease as the cause of their symptoms.
- Serologic testing is generally not useful or recommended for patients with single EM rashes. For this manifestation, a clinical diagnosis is recommended.
Experts around the world agree with the CDC. A 2018 French review of 16 Lyme diagnostic guidelines from 7 countries revealed a global consensus regarding diagnosis at each stage of the infection. The only outlier was the pseudoscience group German Borreliosis Society , a German counterpart to the pseudoscience group ILADS.
Future Possibilities For Diagnostic Tools
NIAID-supported scientists have identified genome sequences for multiple strains of B. burgdorferi. Greater advances in diagnostics are anticipated as genetic information is combined with advances in microarray technology, imaging, and proteomics. These growing fields of science are expected to lead to improved diagnostic tools as well as provide new insights on the pathogenesis of Lyme disease. Examples of tools being developed with NIAID support include use of metabolomics to characterize new biomarkers of infection, next generation T-cell based measurements, and novel antigens for improved measurement of effective treatment.
Don’t Miss: A Cure For Lyme Disease
Get Tested With Igenex Today
If youve been experiencing symptoms of a possible tick-borne disease, its crucial to get tested as soon as possible from a reputable lab. You may want to work with your primary care doctor, or find a trusted Lyme-literate doctor to help you understand your test results.
If youre interested in a Lyme disease test for IGeneX, get started today.
First Comes Igm Then Igg
The pathogenesis and the different stages of infection should inform laboratory testing in Lyme disease.
It is estimated that only 5% of infected ticks that bite people actually transmit their spirochetes to the human host. However, once infected, the patients innate immune system mounts a response that results in the classic erythema migrans rash at the bite site. A rash develops in only about 85% of patients who are infected and can appear at any time between 3 and 30 days, but most commonly after 7 days. Hence, a rash occurring within the first few hours of tick contact is not erythema migrans and does not indicate infection, but rather an early reaction to tick salivary antigens.
Antibody levels remain below the detection limits of currently available serologic tests in the first 7 days after exposure. Immunoglobulin M antibody titers peak between 8 and 14 days after tick contact, but IgM antibodies may never develop if the patient is started on early appropriate antimicrobial therapy.
If the infection is not treated, the spirochete may disseminate through the blood from the bite site to different tissues. Both cell-mediated and antibody-mediated immunity swing into action to kill the spirochetes at this stage. The IgM antibody response occurs in 1 to 2 weeks, followed by a robust IgG response in 2 to 4 weeks.
Because IgM can also cross-react with antigens other than those associated with B burgdorferi, the IgM test is less specific than the IgG test for Lyme disease.
Also Check: Late Stage Chronic Lyme Disease
When Is A Lyme Disease Test Most Accurate
Lyme disease test accuracy depends on the kind of test under consideration. In general, most Lyme disease tests are designed to detect specific antibodies that the body makes in response to a Lyme infection. But it takes several weeks for these antibodies to build up in the bloodstream, and a Lyme disease test will typically be most accurate once these antibodies have developed.
What Is The Difference Between This Indirect Blood Diagnostic Test And A Direct Test
Direct diagnostic tests measure the presence of the bacteria directly and are much more reliable than tests looking for indirect measurement of antibodies that measure a persons immune response to an infection. Lyme disease diagnoses and disease management would benefit from validated diagnostic tests that directly measure the infection such as a culture, PCR test, or antigen detection tests. Direct tests are vital to the management of other infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis C, strep, and COVID-19, but have not yet become widely available for Lyme disease.
Also Check: Lyme Disease Doctors In Maine
You May Like: The Cowden Protocol For Lyme Disease
When Is The Lyme Disease Blood Test Ordered
When someone has the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease or they live in a region that has deer ticks or black-legged ticks, then this blood test will be ordered. It will also be ordered when these symptoms occur without improvement over the course of 7-14 days by most medical providers.
- A bulls-eye rash that grows from the bite site.
- Fevers, chills, and a persistent headache that does not go away.
- Unusual and persistent fatigue that does not immediately improve.
The IgM and IgG tests are generally ordered first when Lyme disease is suspected. This is because people who have never been exposed to the bacteria that causes the disease will not have any antibodies present. If these tests are positive and followed up by a positive Western Blot test, then the chances are very good that Lyme disease is present. This is especially true if antibody levels continue to rise over time.
Current Research On New Approaches
NIAID actively supports research on Lyme disease diagnostics. Small businesses and public/private partnerships often submit applications for new research projects. NIAID grantees also work directly with CDC scientists to evaluate and compare the effectiveness of currently used diagnostic methods.
Working with CDC, NIAID plays a major role in encouraging the development of new approaches to improve Lyme disease diagnosis in people with tick-borne co-infections such as anaplasmosis or babesiosis. New diagnostic tests are also needed to distinguish between people with B. burgdorferi infection and those whose immune responses stemming solely from past Lyme disease vaccination. Although Lyme disease vaccines for humans are no longer available in the United States, the discontinued LYMErix vaccine used between 1998 and 2002 was based on a specific part of B. burgdorferi called outer surface protein A . In response to the vaccines, immunized individuals developed antibodies for OspA. Because the conventional ELISA measures OspA antibodies to determine if someone has Lyme disease, the test does not provide accurate results for immunized individuals. People who received the vaccination will test positive whether or not they are actually infected with B. burgdorferi.
NIAID is supporting research on a variety of approaches to improve the diagnosis of Lyme disease:
You May Like: Do You Ever Get Over Lyme Disease