Lyme Disease Research Database Independent reporting on all aspects of Lyme Disease

Lyme Test

Best test for Lyme & Co-infections

Best test for Lyme co-infections
Should Lyme patients be concerned about Bartonella? Commonly associated with Cat Scratch Disease (CSD), this bacteria is also commonly included in the toxic waste dumped into the human bloodstream via a tick or flea bite.

If you have a diagnosis of Lyme disease, you should be aware that you may also be dealing with common co-infections such as Babesiosis, Ehrlichsiosis, or Bartonellosis. Get tested and treated for these additional inflictions, which can cause symptoms and impact the immune-system.

What are some of the problems associated with co-infections? Well, it begins with not even knowing that you might have them. Not all diagnostics labs are created equal. We admire the work that is being done at IGeneX. Here are some of the reasons why.

Same old Lyme-testing trouble
Nick S. Harris, PhD., of IGeneX laboratory in Palo Alto, CA, cautions that due to many factors, Lyme disease remains very complicated to correctly diagnose. Among the top reasons stated, infection does not show up the same in everybody. People all react differently. In addition, seralogical (blood) tests yield unreliable results because the Lyme bacteria is known for its stealth activity and it likes to hide. Lyme is weird (you heard it here). Even in a person with active disease, the bacteria are not always likely to be detectable in the blood. On top of that, antibodies may only be present for a short amount of time, making testing for Lyme bacterial infection a hit-and-miss affair at best.

Standard tests frequently flunk
If you go to your IDSA doctor, assuming you can convince them to test you for Lyme, he or she will give you the standard ELISA and Western Blot Lyme tests recommended by the CDC. What your doctor may or may not know is that these standard tests often fail to give positive diagnoses to patients, causing a chain of reaction wherein they are not made aware that they should begin proper treatment for the disease.

This frustrating scenario has been going on for years. Decades. Your doctor or doctors might also be smart enough to be paying attention to what many call the Lyme wars. They might recognize that while a positive blood test would be optimal, where Lyme is concerned, a clinical diagnosis is often the only way that doctors can observe your condition.

More sensitive testing required
IGeneX lab offers tests sensitive enough to detect the bacteria. For many Lyme patients, myself included, testing at IGeneX has signified the end of the mystery (do I have Lyme?), and the beginning of recovery.

Dr Harris recommends that “for patients presenting with clinical symptoms of Lyme Disease who test negative by the IgG or IgM Western Blot, the Whole Blood PCR or the LDA/Multiplex PCR Panel on urine may be appropriate. There are physician-developed antibiotic protocols to enhance the sensitivity of the LDA. In addition, there seems to be increased sensitivity of this test during the start of menses.”

IGeneX tests for Co-infections
IGeneX lab also offers tests for other tick-borne illnesses. The following info is from Dr Harris on their website:

“The tests are IFA (fluorescent antibody) or direct tests by PCR. In the case of
Babesia, FISH (fluorescent in situ hybridization) is also available. The FISH test detects the ribosomal RNA of the Babesia parasites directly on air-dried blood smears. This test is highly specific for Babesia, unlike the standard test, the geimsa stain smear, which cannot differentiate between malaria parasites and Babesia.”

Babesiosis Tests
B. Microti and/or WA-1 IgG/IgM Antibody Babesia and/or Babesia WA-1 PCR Babesia FISH (RNA)

Ehrlichiosis Tests
Human Granulocytic Ehrlichia IgG/IgM Antibody Human Granulocytic Ehrlichia PCR Human Monocytic Ehrlichia IgG/IgM AntibodyHuman Monocytic Ehrlichia PCR

Bartonella Tests
Bartonella henselae PCR with Whole Blood


New Bartonella Test
Across the country, another diagnostics lab has been working on a new test for Bartonella, and they want you to know about it so you can request it from your doctor. Galaxy Diagnostics in Research Triangle Park, NC, claims it has developed an even more sensitive test for Bartonella, using state-of-the-art molecular detection.

According to their literature, twenty-eight species of Bartonella have been identified so far, and new species are found every year.


Added cost, but better long-term health prognosis
Of course, testing for co-infections will likely add cost to your treatment plan. But it is important to know what obstacles you could be facing on the road back to good health.

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NIH develops more sensitive test for Lyme disease

Reported in the June, 2010 issue of Clinical and Vaccine Immunology:

New Test May Simply and Rapidly Detect Lyme Disease

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health have developed a more sensitive test for Lyme disease that may offer earlier detection and lower cost. The details are reported in the June 2010 issue of the journal Clinical and Vaccine Immunology.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted to animals and humans by deer ticks. A skin lesion at the site of the bite is one of the first signs of infection followed by potential neurological, cardiac, and rheumatological complications upon entering the bloodstream. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends a two-step blood test for diagnosing the disease, however, several limitations include low sensitivity during the early stages of infection, significant time and expense, and an inability to distinguish between active and prior infection.
In prior studies the luciferase immunoprecipitation system (LIPS) test showed promise at detecting a variety of infectious agents including viral and fungal pathogens. Here, LIPS was evaluated for its ability to detect antibody responses to Borrelia burgdorferi proteins in blood samples taken from a patient group (some healthy and some with Lyme disease) as well as a control group. Results showed that diagnostic levels of 98% to 100% were achieved using LIPS in conjunction with the synthetic protein VOVO.

"These results suggest that screening by the LIPS test with VOVO and other B. burgdorferi antigens offers an efficient quantitative approach for evaluation of the antibody responses in patients with Lyme disease," say the researchers.

(P.D. Burbelo, A.T. Issa, K.H. Ching, J.I. Cohen, M.J. Iadarola, A. Marques. 2010. Rapid, simple, quantitative, and highly sensitive antibody detection for Lyme disease. Clinical and Vaccine Immunology, 17. 6: 904-909.)
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Want a Lyme test that looks for antigens?

"We have to go on," says Tom. "We can't change yesterday, but the thing that keeps us going is that sooner or later we're going to catch that bug in time, and save someone from going through this pain."

Tom was sick and suffering with mysterious symptoms for nine years before a test finally convinced one of his doctors that he did indeed have Lyme disease. At that point, he began taking antibiotics. In the first month, severe Herxheimer reactions made him even more ill than he had been without treatment, but he continued for five months. Three years later, he now feels better in most ways. Occasionally, he has bad days that he attributes to the Lyme bug, but feels that for the most part, it is suppressed.

"I thought I was dying," he says. Hit by a massive anxiety attack while driving through Kansas, he experienced such debilitating vertigo that he had to pull the car over to the side of the road. "Everything was spinning wildly around me."

"I had lost track of the number of doctors I went to for help over those nine years. One doctor in Massachusetts, who I knew thought I was crazy finally told me that he thought I was crazy. He told me there was nothing wrong with me, and recommended psychiatric help."

"He told me that he thought I was an 'attention-seeker'."

I said to him, "Look, doc. I'm a concert pianist and a concert organist. If I want attention, all I have to do is book a recital. I don't need attention from you."

The test that finally clinched the correct diagnosis for Tom is a special kind of technique called Flow Cytometry. It is available at the Central Florida Research Laboratory, located in Winter Haven, FL. Instead of looking for the antibodies that build up in response to a Lyme Borreliosis infection, the Flow Cytometry technique finds the Borreliosis antigens directly.

Since Spring 2007, the CFR lab has tested several thousand people for Lyme disease. Blood samples arrive from locations all over the globe,  including all over Europe, where Lyme disease is known simply as Borreliosis.

In addition to testing people, CFR also tests animals for Lyme. Please refer to the CFR website for more information about the Flow Cytometric Lyme test for pets and people.

Central Florida Research Laboratory
Winter Haven, FL
Medical Director: Clifford H Threlkeld, DO, FCAP
Phone Number: (863) 299-3232
Fax Number: (863) 299-3355
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New Lyme test for early detection

Here's a piece of good news. If you live in the Lyme-endemic region of Milford, CT, you have a new option for testing. And -- unless you have Aetna -- your insurance plan should cover it.

Pathologist Sin Hang Lee, MD, and his team have developed a DNA test for early Lyme detection. Details are available in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology. The test is the first of its kind. I recently talked with Dr Lee about the new test, which has been in use at the Milford Hospital for about one year.

Early detection is extremely important. People who are diagnosed with Lyme in the early stage have a good chance of receiving treatment that will cure them, and they will have no further complications from the disease. The DNA test eliminates the false positives that are problematic in the traditional Lyme tests, specifically the Western Blot and the ELISA.

The test is good news for people in the Milford area who suspect they've been bitten by a tick. Reports from other regions in the NE, such as Portland, Maine, are already warning of an increase in tick bites this year.


According to the announcement of the new DNA Lyme test, "physicians at the Milford Hospital Emergency Center and Walk-in Urgent Care Center, who see about 40,000 patients a year, usually order the traditional antibody testing and the new DNA test for patients presenting with Lyme disease-like symptoms. Most insurance companies except Aetna will pay for the test."

Patients and physicians interested in information on this DNA test may call George Poole, manager of Milford Medical Laboratory, at 203-876-4496.

Listen to our interview with Dr. Sin Hang Lee about the Lyme DNA test.
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Bring testing into the 21st century

How many times have you wondered why the flawed technology of the Western blot and the ELISA are still the standard test for Lyme? Hasn't anyone figured out a better, more sensitive test by now? New research is being done with twenty-first century technology, such as genomics and proteomics. More sensitive tests mean that greater numbers of people infected with borrelia would have a chance to begin treatment before Lyme enters the later stages. A person who tested negative for Lyme with the Western blot may actually test positive when tested for certain protein markers.

Pamela Weintraub, author of
Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic, and senior editor at Discover Magazine, pulls no punches in a recent post about the IDSA's choice of panelists. The panel that has been assembled seems likely to merely reaffirm the old guard, and not consider new University-based scientific research.

"As someone who has traveled the country for six years interviewing these scientists to write my book,
Cure Unknown, I can tell you unequivocally that many of the top researchers at the top institutions in the world do not think the original IDSA panel got it right," writes Pamela.

"Are recommended treatment protocols truly curing most of those with early, invasive borreliosis, as IDSA contends?"

"The answers won’t be found in the twentieth-century technology of the Western blot, by today’s standards crude yet still trotted out by IDSA as evidence absolute that they are right. (The Western blot for Lyme is so flawed that even its major manufacturer says he has found numerous "band" patterns more accurate than the one in use today.) Instead of relying on flawed 20th century technology, we must look to the science of the twenty-first century, including state-of-the-art genomics and proteomics that allows for the sequencing of every gene and protein involved in every stage of Lyme. With evidence of this calibre we won't have to fight over the truth: We will know what's going on."


Stay tuned for more LDRD interviews with top researchers, such as Dr. Eva Sapi of the University of New Haven. Dr. Sapi directs the graduate studies program for research into Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
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Marguerite's Lyme story

"It's been a rollercoaster," says Marguerite, who began looking for a Lyme literate doctor when she first contracted the disease many years ago. She had just experienced the death of her second husband. She had two adorable puppies, and was active in church, taking yoga, working and staying physically fit when she discovered she had Lyme disease. Living in the heartland of Lyme in Fairfield, Connecticut, she was bitten more than once.

She got herself to an infectious disease doctor the minute she detected a tick bite, and was given short courses of doxycycline, which she now suspects were not long enough. She even received the controversial Lyme vaccine, which was only available for a brief period of time due to its ineffectiveness.

This is a frustrating and familiar story: Marguerite's Lyme symptoms began as flu-like feelings and migraine headaches. Her severe low back pain and neurological challenges made it very difficult to work, even though her company allowed her to work from home. She developed apnea, insomnia, painful swelling in the joints and more. She's gone to three infectious disease doctors who she says won't even listen to her positive test results for Lyme. Today, she uses patches for pain control, and is actively looking for a Lyme aware doctor to treat her.

We wish you well, Marguerite!

Members can listen to Marguerite's story. Please consider joining the LDRD.
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ABC covers Lyme debate - part 2


Watch the video


* Lyme disease tests are often misleading
* Lyme symptoms can mimic hundreds of other conditions
* Many Lyme patients do not receive a correct diagnosis until the Lyme bacteria has had a chance to replicate throughout their body


Does your doctor know how to test for Lyme? Is he or she Lyme aware? ILADS physician Dr. Raphael Stricker told us in an exclusive LDRD interview that the conventional Lyme tests have a "coin-toss sensitivity," meaning that you could get the same results if you just flip a coin.

Do you have to go outside IDSA recommendations to get the answers you need? The woman in this news story considers herself virtually cured of Lyme, after two and a half years of antibiotics therapy.

Are some conventional doctors beginning to understand that these tests, developed over 30 years ago, are outdated and inadequate?

Watch this brief news story on the great Lyme debate. Journalist Kathy Fowler continues the 3-part investigation. Leave your comments here and also send drop her a note at lyme@wjla.com Please share this link with others you know are concerned about Lyme disease symptoms.
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Rick's Lyme success story

Rick, an active sports-lover, was married and starting a family. He was a runner, a cycler and a swimmer. His northern California lifestyle was the type most people can only dream of. "I would water-ski, snow-ski, do anything I pretty much wanted to, looking back. Then I'd hang out with my family, get into the car on the fly, and still have energy on the weekends," he says.

One day he woke up with a frozen shoulder. He was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Although Rick had been tested for Lyme, the tests had come back negative. His RA doctor told him, "Lyme doesn't exist in California. It's probably not that. You just need to consider that you have arthritis. Then he added, right in front of my wife, 'you have to trust the experts to help make you better,'" says Rick. He laughed. "I'm in sales," he explains. "Whenever I hear somebody say 'trust me,' I know I'm going to get f****d."

His RA doctor recommended surgery, which he had. The pain was still unbearable. He was sent from doctor to doctor and no one knew what the problem was. He spent over $25,000 in medical tests without receiving any answers. He was placed on medications that never seemed to help, and only made things worse. At one point, he was popping sixteen Advil per day, eight in the morning and eight at lunch. At night, he self-medicated with wine. The entire time he was sick, he hid his painful symptoms from everyone he worked with, and never complained, even to his wife. But he wasn't getting better and knew he couldn't go on like that.

Finally, at his wife's suggestion, he realized that he had to trust yet one more doctor. He had Googled "Lyme + doctor" and found a clinic in nearby San Francisco. He walked into the office of ILADS physician Dr. Raphael Stricker. When Dr. Stricker told him he had Lyme, he was flooded with intense relief. After only three weeks of treatment, his symptoms began to disappear.

Rick now considers himself to be about 90% better, and he's been able to return to some of the activities he loves. How did having Lyme change his life? In so many ways, he says. Specifically, his empathy for other peoples' hardship and pain. "My family says I'm nicer now," he adds, laughing.

LDRD members, you can listen to Rick tell his entire story in the members area.
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Beating Lyme

Before Karol, a diagnostic technician, received a correct diagnosis for Lyme disease, she saw 14 doctors over a four year period. One after the other, these well-educated (though ignorant about Lyme) physicians tested her for many conditions. Karol lives in Texas, and according to the region's doctors, "you can't get Lyme in Texas." So, they searched for the cause of Karol's pain and sickness. Early on, she did get tested for Lyme, but since the test was negative it was ruled out and forgotten. She could have a brain tumor, they suggested. She might have multiple sclerosis. Whatever the reason for her seizures and dizziness, the doctors never suspected Lyme.

One day, she happened to catch a nurse practitioner on the television news, talking about the difficulty of diagnosing Lyme disease. Listening to Ginger Savely, FNP, Karol made the decision to go and see her. "I wasn't very optimistic," says Karol, about receiving a diagnosis. After all, it had been four years. When she did get positively diagnosed for Lyme and began antibiotic therapy, she was thrilled. "That's weird, I know, to be so happy about having a disease," she says. However, the affirmation gave her the strength to fight it. Like so many of us, she found the experience of not-knowing, for so many years, to be almost as debilitating as the disease itself.

Karol now describes herself as 95% better. Listening to her story is both familiar and uplifting. She's a testament to patience and persistence through suffering and confusion. She talks about the ways that Lyme changed her life. Her attitude is upbeat, and she believes that positive thinking has a definite place in her personal healing journey.

LDRD members can login and listen to Karol's story.
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