Lyme disease can be challenging to diagnose in some cases because of the way it affects the body. Initially, people may develop flu-like symptoms without realizing they have contracted Lyme disease. If that occurs, the bacterial infection will continue to take hold within the body, causing further health issues (acute vs chronic Lyme differ in the problems they may cause).
People who know they have Lyme disease early on can take a course of antibiotics, and there’s a good chance this will rid the body of bacteria. That said, no two cases of Lyme disease are ever the same. The infection can progress at different stages depending on how long ago a person contracted it. Many times, the plethora of symptoms that develop because of Lyme disease mimic other health disorders and conditions. Called the “great imitator,” and sometimes undetectable by early signs alone, Lyme disease requires new testing is needed to ensure that when a person contracts it, they can be diagnosed and treated quickly and effectively.
One specific test, the ELISpot test, can be used in the diagnostic process for Lyme disease. But what is an ELISpot test, and can it detect Lyme disease at all stages? Let’s investigate.
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.
Of the many viruses found in humans, some have mild to moderate symptoms
that go away on their own over time, while others require serious treatment to
help rid the body of pathogens and get patients back to their optimal level of
Some viruses, including the coxsackie virus, can fall into both
categories – one version of the illness can require treatment, while the other
can often go away on its own. The virus itself is generally found in children
under the age of 10, but it has been known to infect younger adults as well.
What is coxsackie virus?
The coxsackie viruses are RNA viruses. Often called enteroviruses, they
are made up of only one strand of RNA (ribonucleic acid). The viruses that are
part of the coxsackie family can lead to hand, foot, and mouth disease, as well
as other conditions that affect the lungs, heart, and muscles.
There are two very distinct types of coxsackie virus: type A and type B.
Type A is the coxsackie virus that leads to hand, foot, and mouth disease. In
the majority of cases, a Type A coxsackie virus clears up on its own in a
matter of days to weeks, but the virus itself can be shed for weeks following
the initial infection. A Type B coxsackie virus can lead to epidemic
pleurodynia (a febrile disorder) and often resolves itself within 2–12 days of
initial infection. Both types of coxsackie virus are highly contagious and can
be shed through fecal matter even after the virus has cleared up in the
What are the symptoms of coxsackie virus?
The virus was first recorded in the mid-1900s by scientist Gilbert
Dalldorf when he was trying to discover a cure for another ailment. This led to
the discovery that coxsackie was able to mimic mild cases of polio. Following this,
Dalldorf learned that coxsackie viruses could cause a variety of different
The symptoms of coxsackie virus vary depending on the type and typically
appear within three to six days of the initial infection. In those with Type A
coxsackie, symptoms include sores in the throat, otherwise known as herpangina.
It can also lead to sores and lesions in the mouth, on the palms of the hands,
and on the soles of the feet. Type B symptoms include fever, headache, and abdominal
and chest spasms, although a fever is usually the first symptom to appear. In
both types A and B, more serious complications can arise in those who have a
subtype of the virus. These conditions include meningitis, myocarditis, and
pericarditis, but it is rare for these to develop.
How do you test for coxsackie virus?
Generally speaking, diagnosis of coxsackie virus occurs by a physical
exam performed by a doctor when a blister-like rash is present on the hands,
feet, and mouth. This method of diagnosis saves money on tests in the long run
because doctors believe that if the rashes are present, then the ailment is
easy to spot. There are, however, viral tests that can be done if the infection
cannot be confirmed through physical exam alone.
To get a definitive diagnosis for coxsackie virus, rectal swabs or stool
samples will be taken and isolated in a cell culture. This is to ensure the
virus is present in a patient who may not be exhibiting typical symptoms.
Doctors will also check for specific antibodies in patients who may have
recovered from the illness prior to testing. In those who develop serious
complications, testing for bacterial meningitis is crucial so that the
appropriate treatment can be administered.
A new ELISpot test being developed by Infectolab is changing the way
coxsackie virus can be diagnosed. The test takes into account T-cell production
to help doctors get a more definitive picture of whether the infection is
present in the body. The new test will help to eliminate any holes in testing,
which in turn will lead to more accurate diagnosis of the virus in patients.
How do you treat coxsackie virus?
Treatment for coxsackie virus is tricky because there is no specific
medication designed to combat it. Because it is a viral infection, antibiotics cannot
be used during a treatment course as they will have no effect on the virus
It is usually recommended that parents of children with coxsackie virus (as
well as young adults who become infected) focus on treating the viral symptoms
such as fever, headache, sore throat, and rash. This can be done using
over-the-counter anti-inflammatories as well as medications designed to bring
temperature down. Because many cases of coxsackie virus are mild in nature, treatment
of any kind may not be required, and the infection should clear up on its own
within a couple of weeks.
In the case of serious complications, though, treatment may differ. If
the coxsackie infection leads to meningitis, for example, hospitalization may be
necessary, with treatment in the form of intravenous medications such as
antibiotics and sometimes corticosteroids.
Is coxsackie the same as “hand foot mouth”?
The name “hand, foot, and mouth disease” comes from the places lesions
appear on the body when someone is infected with the coxsackie virus. Hand,
foot, and mouth disease is caused by the presence of the coxsackie virus in the
As mentioned above, in children the disease presents as sores and
lesions in the mouth, throat, feet, and hands. Adults who contract the virus
may appear asymptomatic while infected. This can lead to undiagnosed cases, meaning
they can also pass it on without ever realizing they have contracted the
Positive, concrete diagnosis in the field of vector-borne diseases has been a recurring problem. One of the biggest issues with Lyme disease is the misdiagnosis rate. This is hard to estimate accurately, but with chronic Lyme mimicking the symptoms of other, more common chronic disorders, misdiagnosis numbers are believed to be in the hundreds of thousands globally. Testing for vector-borne diseases (those spread by ticks, mites, lice, and fleas) can be a complex procedure, especially if the initial bite that caused the infection was not noticed immediately. Without specific telltale signs on the site of the bite, many of the initial symptoms of Lyme and other infections are generalized and hard to pin down. Compounding matters is the fact that if the tests are conducted too early in the disease’s lifecycle, they can often return false negatives. This is a recurring problem with disorders initiated by the Rickettsia pathogens.
Our collective knowledge surrounding Lyme
disease is something like an inverse funnel. We know a lot about how it is
spread and contracted, but as the disease progresses, our understanding of it
dissipates. One of the continuing problems we encounter is diagnosis. These are
muddy waters, as Lyme exists in two very distinct forms: acute, which is
legitimately recognized and lasts a number of weeks; and chronic, a far more
malleable disorder that often mimics the symptoms of other diseases. Chronic
Lyme is generally not acknowledged as a legitimate disorder, leaving patients
and doctors undereducated about its symptoms and presentation. Diagnosis,
therefore, is a major problem. This leads people who understand Lyme disease to
wonder if it’s possible to test themselves for the disorder.