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A Potential New Test for Diagnosing Lyme Disease

0 2 years ago

For scientists and clinicians alike, one of the Holy Grails for successfully treating and curing Lyme disease is developing tests that identify the disease sooner, show when people are cured of infection, and can diagnose reinfection.

Now, researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine say they have identified just such a testing mechanism. It detects a type of antibody that infected individuals produce against a substance the Lyme bacteria acquires from the host in order to grow. The researchers believe tests to detect these autoantibodies – antibodies that mistakenly target and react with a person’s own tissues or organs – could provide clinicians with a way to diagnose the disease sooner, know whether treatment with antibiotics is working, and identify patients who have been reinfected.

Authors of the study, published today by the Journal of Clinical Investigation, are Peter Gwynne, Luke Clendenen, and Linden Hu of the school’s Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, and colleagues at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Lyme disease, which was identified five decades ago along the Connecticut coast and spread across New England and the mid-Atlantic region, affects almost 500,000 people in the U.S. every year. Caused by a bite from an infected tick, it frequently goes undetected unless a person notices the telltale rash that forms around the bite.

Lyme disease can lead to debilitating long-term complications including arthritis, fatigue, mental impairment, and in the most severe cases, attacks on the heart and brain tissue. Caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, Lyme disease can often be treated with antibiotics. But in 10 to 20 percent of cases, the disease’s effects can persist.


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