The Center's for Disease Control (CDC) and medical researchers across the world are tackling, "the most commonly reported tick-borne infection in the United States."1
We reported in Part 1 - Prevention (Lyme disease prevention), of our Lyme disease Freshmail series, "there is more tick-borne disease in Pennsylvania than any other state in America."
Why is the problem getting worse and not better?
Simply put, Lyme disease is very difficult to detect and treat, and worse yet, early detection is paramount.
What is Lyme disease?
The CDC states, "Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans (bulls-eye). If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks."
How do you detect and diagnose Lyme disease?1
CDC currently recommends a two-step process when testing blood for evidence of antibodies against the Lyme disease bacteria. Both steps can be done using the same blood sample.
The first step uses a testing procedure called “EIA” (enzyme immunoassay) or rarely, an “IFA” (indirect immunofluorescence assay). If this first step is negative, no further testing of the specimen is recommended. If the first step is positive or indeterminate (sometimes called "equivocal"), the second step should be performed. The second step uses a test called an immunoblot test, commonly, a “Western blot” test. Results are considered positive only if the EIA/IFA and the immunoblot are both positive.
The two steps of Lyme disease testing are designed to be done together. The CDC does not recommend skipping the first test and just doing the Western blot. Doing so will increase the frequency of false positive results and may lead to misdiagnosis and improper treatment.
New tests may be developed as alternatives to one or both steps of the two-step process. Before CDC will recommend new tests, their performance must be demonstrated to be equal to or better than the results of the existing procedure, and they must be FDA approved.
Laboratory blood tests are helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods. Laboratory tests are not recommended for patients who do not have symptoms typical of Lyme disease. Just as it is important to correctly diagnose Lyme disease when a patient has it, it is important to avoid misdiagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease when the true cause of the illness is something else.
I've heard the Lyme disease blood test isn't accurate?1
You may have heard that the blood test for Lyme disease is correctly positive only 65% of the time or less. This is misleading information. As with serologic tests for other infectious diseases, the accuracy of the test depends upon the stage of disease. During the first few weeks of infection, such as when a patient has an erythema migrans rash, the test is expected to be negative.
Several weeks after infection, currently available EIA and IFA tests and two-tier testing have very good sensitivity.
It is possible for someone who was infected with Lyme disease to test negative because:
- Some people who receive antibiotics (e.g., doxycycline) early in disease (within the first few weeks after tick bite) may not develop antibodies or may only develop them at levels too low to be detected by the test.
- Antibodies against Lyme disease bacteria usually take a few weeks to develop, so tests performed before this time may be negative even if the person is infected. In this case, if the person is retested a few weeks later, they should have a positive test if they have Lyme disease.
- It is not until 4 to 6 weeks have passed that the test is likely to be positive. This does not mean that the test is bad, only that it needs to be used correctly.
Is there something I can do?
Lymenator, a Lyme disease warning system, is a rapid test for the fast and qualitative detection of Borreliosis pathogens (bacteria which cause Lyme disease) directly in a tick.
If a tick is embedded in your skin, Lymenator can be used to test the tick directly, after removal, and within 5-10 minutes tell whether the tick carries the bacteria for Lyme Disease. This early warning system allows you to talk with your doctor about the results. Typical lab-based blood tests require a 4-6 week wait time prior to testing. With Lymenator, immediate results means immediate treatment can be sought, if necessary.
Interested in purchasing the Lymenator kit? Freshlife has them available for sale and if you have any questions about the kits, our wellness coaches will be happy to help you.
Results of tick testing should not be used for treatment decisions!
- Positive results showing that the tick contains a disease-causing organism do not necessarily mean that you have been infected.
- Negative results can lead to false assurance. You may have been unknowingly bitten by a different tick that was infected.
- If you have been infected, you will probably develop symptoms before results of the tick test are available.
- If you do become ill, you should not wait for tick testing results before beginning appropriate treatment.