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

Ambitious global virome project could mark end of pandemic era

February 23, 2018
Rather than wait for viruses like Ebola, SARS and Zika to become outbreaks that force the world to react, a new global initiative seeks to proactively identify, prepare for and stop viral threats before they become pandemics.

Forecasting antibiotic resistance with a 'weather map' of local data

February 23, 2018
The resistance that infectious microbes have to antibiotics makes it difficult for physicians to confidently select the right drug to treat an infection. And that resistance is dynamic: It changes from year to year and varies ...

Study reveals how kidney disease happens

February 22, 2018
Monash researchers have solved a mystery, revealing how certain immune cells work together to instigate autoimmune kidney disease.

Scientists gain new insight on how antibodies interact with widespread respiratory virus

February 22, 2018
Scientists have found and characterized the activity of four antibodies produced by the human immune system that target an important protein found in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), according to new research published ...

Past encounters with the flu shape vaccine response

February 20, 2018
New research on why the influenza vaccine was only modestly effective in recent years shows that immune history with the flu influences a person's response to the vaccine.

Building better tiny kidneys to test drugs and help people avoid dialysis

February 16, 2018
A free online kidney atlas built by USC researchers empowers stem cell scientists everywhere to generate more human-like tiny kidneys for testing new drugs and creating renal replacement therapies.

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.