Lyme disease affects thousands of Americans. Each year, roughly 20,000 to 30,000 new cases are confirmed nationwide. When a person develops Lyme disease, they may experience mild illness that can be treated effectively using antibiotics. However, that isn’t always the case. Some people who contract the bacteria that causes Lyme disease end up developing long-term complications and issues that impact the health of their entire body. The bacteria that causes the disease, borrelia, can evade detection, even when someone takes medication to get rid of it. Because of this, it can hide in plain sight, causing damage to organs, tissues, and healthy cells.
In the past, it wasn’t always easy to diagnose Lyme disease, especially cases that went unnoticed until months after a person contracted it. However, new diagnostic tools have emerged, helping medical providers diagnose and treat Lyme disease more effectively. One such type of diagnostic investigation is checking a person’s CD57 markers. Read on to learn more about CD57 markers and how CD57 markers can help Lyme disease treatment.
What are CD57 markers?
Understanding CD57 markers starts at the basics of immunology. The immune system is a collection of organs, cells, and glands that help protect the body from infection and diseases. Cells designed to ward off infection, such as T-cells and natural killer cells, are known as lymphocytes. These cells each have markers known as CD or cluster designation. The CD is a glycoprotein molecule that acts as a physical characteristic of a cell. This allows differentiation between cells within the body.
Each CD has its own number, based on when it was discovered (CD57, therefore, was the 57th marker found on cells). Some cells are similar because they have identical features, while others differ based on those same identification units.
Back to the immune system: CD57 markers can be found on natural killer cells. These can be identified based on several markers, but the CD57 marker is the one medical researchers have found is closely related to Lyme disease.
What does CD57 positive mean?
Every cell has its specific markers. As mentioned above, these can help identify the cell within the body. When a person has CD57 markers on their natural killer cells, they are referred to as CD57 positive. It’s similar to other medical lingo regarding positive tests (for example, if a person has tested positive for COVID-19, it means the virus has been found within their body).
What is a CD57 test used for?
The CD57 test is a blood test. It involves having blood drawn so that immune cells can be examined to see if the patient is CD57 positive. Currently, the test is used to help identify Lyme disease infections in people who have chronic symptoms, but are still unsure whether they actually came into contact with the bacteria at some point.
Chronic Lyme disease is often diagnosed and monitored using the CD57 test because research has found that people with Lyme disease often have a low number of CD57 markers on their natural killer cells. Research is still ongoing as to exactly why the illness causes those marker numbers to drop.
Using CD57 to help Lyme patients
Many people who experience chronic Lyme disease are unsure where their symptoms are coming from initially. The signs of infection can be so generalized that it’s hard to determine what illness drives them.
Lyme can also mimic other diseases, so getting the proper diagnosis is vital to treatment. For example, a person may develop the symptoms of arthritis, but typical arthritis is not caused by bacteria and is treated vastly differently. By using the CD57 marker test, however, doctors can rule out other conditions that may develop with the same symptoms.
As Lyme disease progresses, the number of CD57 markers can also be used to monitor the body’s recovery. After treatment begins, monitoring the CD57 markers on natural killer cells can show doctors if a person’s markers are improving, worsening, or staying the same. This allows them to change the course of treatment for the patient’s benefit depending on how things are working.
CD57 test interpretation
Patients with Lyme disease will not have to interpret their own test results – their medical providers will be able to explain them to them. If necessary, though, patients can decode the results on their own. Patients can examine their levels by rating them against what is most optimal. Typically, CD57 markers can range from 60-360 uL. Anything below that shows that CD57 markers are low and a person could have an active Lyme disease infection.
While CD57 markers aren’t used alone in diagnosing initial Lyme disease, the discovery of their connection to the bacterial infection has given medical researchers and providers another viable tool to use in the diagnosis, treatment, and recovery process of Lyme disease.