A Faster, More Accurate Lyme Test
In the US, over 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease annually—a massive spike in numbers compared to recent years. This dramatic increase is sparking debate: Is Lyme disease a rapidly spreading epidemic, or are more doctors simply diagnosing this condition?
While researchers work to uncover answers, a new “rapid results” test is in development that may contribute to even more accurate diagnosis—and possibly influence the course of this growing public health concern.
Results in 15 Minutes
Developed by biomedical engineers at Columbia Engineering in collaboration with Immuno Technologies, this new test for Lyme disease is still being researched and fine-tuned before approval for widespread clinical use.
But according to findings just published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, the test offers highly specific results that can diagnose Lyme disease within 15 minutes—meaning it can be used in clinics and hospitals to provide real-time results. Experts hope this can fast-track treatment and lead to better clinical outcomes.
With Lyme disease, early detection and subsequent treatment with powerful antibiotics, often means the vital difference between successful eradication of the infection—or long-term disability. If not treated quickly, or if treatment fails, the Lyme bacteria can set up residence in hard-to-reach areas of the body.
Lyme Tests: Old vs. New
The path to developing an accurate diagnostic method for Lyme disease has been rocky, but existing tests are considered more precise than in the past. Existing Lyme diagnostics consist of a complex, two-step system that uses separate tests —the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) and the Western blot (protein immunoblot) assay—to detect antibodies to the Lyme bacteria.
Called the “standard two-tiered” approach, or STT, this process can take several hours or days to perform by specially-trained lab technicians, meaning vital, time-sensitive treatments may be delayed.
This new test is different: It can detect Lyme antibodies in blood serum within minutes. Even more importantly, results show that this new diagnostic method may be more accurate and sensitive, particularly in diagnosing Lyme disease in the early stages — another critical advantage.
Researchers are confident that, while more refinement is required, this new test will soon become a standard for the rapid diagnosis and early treatment of Lyme disease within doctor’s offices and clinics. This could be a game changer in this critical area of health, where more effective diagnostic and treatment solutions are urgently needed.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a spiral-shaped bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, transmitted by the bite of infected deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis). The spiral structure of the bacterium is part of what makes it so difficult to eradicate in later stages, because the corkscrew shape allows it to get deeper into tissues and hide from antibiotics—and the immune system.
Even following antibiotic treatment, Lyme disease can cause severe neurologic, cardiac, rheumatologic, and other complications—often called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). Many specialists assert that these symptoms come from an imbalance in the body’s inflammatory responses caused by the infection.
While antibiotics are essential in the early stages of Lyme disease, in chronic Lyme disease they are often ineffective at best. At worst, they can be damaging to an already compromised system.
“Treating the Terrain”
Integrative and functional Lyme doctors and experts often discuss the importance of “treating the terrain.” This means addressing other issues that can make Lyme disease symptoms worse. Problems like heavy metal body burden, co-infections, environmental and food sensitivities, and other factors often need to be diagnosed and treated to regain optimal health after Lyme infection has taken hold.
The following strategies can be helpful:
- Gentle detoxification of heavy metals and environmental toxins
- Food sensitivity testing
- Anti-inflammatory diet
- Balanced immune support
- Anti-inflammatory botanicals and nutrients
- Mind-body practices and meditation
- Craniosacral therapies
- Botanical support for healthy neurological function
- Cognitive support
- Natural relaxation and sleep support
Whether addressing acute or chronic Lyme disease, working with a Lyme-literate physician is critical to ensure optimized treatment on an individual basis. With the right integrative strategies, it’s possible to overcome this potentially debilitating condition and regain optimal health and vitality.
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