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Not All Lyme Tests Are Created Equal: Why Having Quality Antigens Is Crucial To Test Sensitivity

Testing for Lyme disease is of the utmost importance in the early stages. Early detection lowers the risk of developing chronic Lyme disease, a debilitating condition that can occur if the bacterial infection is left untreated. The only true way to diagnose and treat Lyme disease early is through effective testing.

When it comes to testing for Lyme disease, however, not all tests are created equal. Some are more effective than others at signaling an infection. The risk of receiving a false negative is generally low when the test is done correctly, but there are a variety of factors that go into each unique type of test to determine the best possible route of treatment following a positive result.

What tests are available for Lyme disease?

Two specific lab tests can help determine a case of Lyme disease. These tests are used to seek out antibodies that are created in response to the Lyme disease bacteria. If antibodies are found, an infection has likely occurred. If they are not, it’s unlikely that Lyme disease is the infection causing a patient’s symptoms. Both lab tests are most effective a few weeks following the initial infection, because it takes the body time to develop antibodies.

The first test is the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test. It is the initial test for the detection of Lyme disease and is followed up with further testing if it detects antibodies created in response to the Lyme-causing bacteria. The second test is the Western Blot. It is used as confirmation following a positive result from the ELISA test. The Western Blot is designed to seek out antibodies created in response to proteins of the Borrelia bacteria.

What does it mean to have Lyme antibodies?

When a pathogen enters the body, the immune system responds by alerting to the nature of the pathogen and creating specific cells designed to fight it off. Those specific cells are called antibodies. In the case of Lyme disease, antibodies are created to fight off the Borrelia bacteria and rid the body of the infection.

Antibodies are also used to help determine whether an infection was present, even if transmission has occurred long before the test. Since antibodies can stay in the system for years following infection, they can help determine whether an infection was ever present, even if treatment has already occurred.

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Image by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash: Can Lyme disease be detected through a blood test?

Can Lyme disease be detected through a blood test?

The aforementioned tests both require a blood sample to be able to single out antibodies within the bloodstream. However, if a patient is experiencing symptoms affecting the central nervous system – such as the ones that can occur if Lyme disease is left untreated – a sample of spinal fluid may be needed to conduct further testing and determine the damage caused by the infection.

What is the most accurate test for Lyme disease?

It is widely accepted that the Western Blot test is the most effective diagnostic tool when it comes to determining whether a person has a Lyme disease infection. That is also why it is used to confirm a positive result for the ELISA test. However, there are more tests on the market today that have utilized cutting-edge technology to help determine a positive case of Lyme disease without the two-step system.

InfectoLab’s ELISpot test is a new, state-of-the-art test that can determine Lyme infection. It is an assay test that works by checking for multiple antigens at a time. This gives it a more effective and reliable result. It is the most advanced ELISpot test available and can provide a proper diagnosis in one step.

Why are quality antigens so important in testing for Lyme disease?

In tests that use antigens, the highest quality antigens will help improve the reliability of the test and avoid any false positives or negatives. Because tests like InfectoLab’s ELISpot take isolated immune cells and combine them with a specific antigen to help determine the presence of antibodies, if the antigen isn’t up to par, the test may be inconclusive, or give a false positive or negative result. 

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Image by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash: Why are quality antigens so important in testing for Lyme disease?

What happens if you get a false positive Lyme test?

False positive results for Lyme disease tests do sometimes occur. If you are undergoing testing using the two-tier system, it’s likely that the first false positive will be rectified by a more reliable result on the second test. If a false positive occurs and you begin undergoing treatment, you will be taking antibiotics. Although taking antibiotics when they are not needed isn’t dangerous, it can upset the level of good bacteria within the gut. If you receive a false positive but are still experiencing symptoms, request that it be followed up with a confirmation test.

Lyme disease testing is crucial to ensuring that you receive the proper care and treatment for the infection before it progresses throughout the body. Getting tested early and efficiently is the best bet for avoiding a prolonged infection and adverse reactions to the Borrelia bacteria.

Featured image by Erik Karits on Unsplash

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