New Lyme disease tests could offer quicker, more accurate detection

December 7, 2017, Rutgers University
Adult deer tick, Ixodes scapularis. Credit: Scott Bauer/public domain

New tests to detect early Lyme disease - which is increasing beyond the summer months -could replace existing tests that often do not clearly identify the infection before health problems occur.

In an analysis published on December 7 in Clinical Infectious Diseases, scientists from Rutgers University, Harvard University, Yale University, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the NIH and other academic centers, industry and public health agencies say new diagnostic methods offer a better chance for more accurate detection of the infection from the Lyme bacteria.

"New tests are at hand that offer more accurate, less ambiguous test results that can yield actionable results in a timely fashion", said Steven Schutzer, a physician-scientist at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and senior author. "Improved tests will allow for earlier diagnosis which should improve patient outcomes."

Lyme is the most common tick-borne infection in North America and Europe. There are currently over 300,000 cases of Lyme disease annually in the United States alone and the disease is increasing and spreading into new regions. Lyme disease frequently, but not always, presents with a bull's-eye rash. When the rash is absent, a laboratory test is needed.

The only FDA approved Lyme disease tests, based on technology developed more than two decades ago, rely on detecting antibodies that the body's immune system makes in response to the disease. These antibody-based tests are the most commonly used tests for Lyme disease and are the current standard.

One problem, however, is that many people produce similar - called "cross-reactive" - antibodies in response to other bacteria not associated with Lyme disease, which causes confusing results and makes accuracy more difficult.

"New tests are more exact and are not as susceptible to the same false-positive or false-negative results associated with current tests," said Schutzer.

Schutzer and his colleagues say more accurate testing would help doctors decide when to prescribe the antibiotics used to clear the infection and help avoid severe long-term health problems. Antibody tests, can take three weeks or more for the antibody levels to reach a point where the tests can pick up a positive result.

Those involved in the paper joined forces after meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Banbury Center, a nonprofit research institution in New York. The meeting organized and chaired by Schutzer and John A. Branda, assistant professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, focused on current Lyme disease tests and new scientific advances made in increasing the accuracy of the diagnosis.

"This meeting and paper resulting from it are particularly significant," said Jan Witkowski, professor in the Watson School of Biological Sciences at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory who along with Nobel Laureate James Watson asked Schutzer to lead several symposia. "The participants noted that there are greatly improved diagnostic tests for Lyme disease that can be implemented now, and that the way is open to the development of further tests."

Explore further: Clinician suspicion minimally accurate for Lyme disease

Related Stories

Clinician suspicion minimally accurate for Lyme disease

November 27, 2017
(HealthDay)—Clinician suspicion has minimal accuracy for the diagnosis of Lyme disease, according to a study published online Nov. 24 in Pediatrics.

New test differentiates between Lyme disease, similar illness

August 16, 2017
Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States. But it can be confused with similar conditions, including Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness. A team of researchers led by Colorado ...

Imperfect test fuels alternative treatments for Lyme disease

August 17, 2015
Lyme disease conjures memories of checking for ticks at camp and fretting over bug bites after hikes in the woods. But far from a summertime nuisance, Lyme is a potentially debilitating disease - and the subject of a vigorous ...

Researchers uncover potential flaws in test for Lyme Disease

June 30, 2016
A new microscopy technique (LM-method) developed to detect Lyme disease is unable to distinguish infected patients from healthy controls, yielding false-positive results that could lead doctors to over-diagnose a patient, ...

'Water on the knee' could be early sign of Lyme disease

November 1, 2015
Spontaneous knee effusion, also known as "water on the knee," can be a primary symptom of Lyme disease, even when patients do not exhibit a "bull's eye" rash, another common Lyme disease symptom. According to a literature ...

Chronic Lyme disease treatments tied to serious adverse effects

June 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—Serious bacterial infections have been documented during treatment for chronic Lyme disease, according to research published in the June 16 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity ...

Recommended for you

A new approach to developing a vaccine against vivax malaria

September 21, 2018
A novel study reports an innovative approach for developing a vaccine against Plasmodium vivax, the most prevalent human malaria parasite outside sub-Saharan Africa. The study led by Hernando A. del Portillo and Carmen Fernandez-Becerra, ...

Pre-clinical success for a universal flu vaccine offers hope for third generation approach

September 21, 2018
Researchers from the University of Oxford's Department of Zoology have demonstrated pre-clinical success for a universal flu vaccine in a new paper published in Nature Communications.

Researchers define possible molecular pathway for neurodegeneration in prion diseases

September 21, 2018
A new study has shed light on the mechanisms underlying the progression of prion diseases and identified a potential target for treatment.

Fighting a deadly parasite: Scientists devise a method to store Cryptosporidium, aiding vaccine research efforts

September 21, 2018
In May, just before one of the hottest summers on record, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning about diseases lurking in recreational water facilities like swimming pools and water playgrounds. ...

Scientists make significant discovery in the fight against drug-resistant tuberculosis

September 20, 2018
A team of scientists have identified a naturally occurring antibiotic that may help in the fight against drug-resistant Tuberculosis.

Anti-cancer drugs may hold key to overcoming antimalarial drug resistance

September 20, 2018
Scientists have found a way to boost the efficacy of the world's most powerful antimalarial drug with the help of chemotherapy medicines, according to new research published in the journal Nature Communications.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.