Diagnosing Lyme Disease & other tick-borne infections:
Lyme disease is a challenge to diagnose and is difficult to treat if not caught early. It is imperative to seek treatment quickly . Lyme disease testing is not an exact science: patients often receive negative results even when the disease is actually present.
If Lyme Disease or other tick-borne illnesses are suspected, don't wait for symptoms to worsen. See a doctor immediately. Lyme Disease is most treatable in the early stages. In later stages, both diagnosis and treatment become more difficult. Symptoms worsen during each stage of infection, ranging from flu-like symptoms to neurological illnesses, including paralysis.
WHY ARE TICK-BORNE ILLNESSES HARD TO DIAGNOSE?
- Lyme symptoms are similar to other illnesses, so misdiagnosis is common.
- Many Canadian doctors are unfamiliar with tick-borne infections.
- Only a handful of blood tests effectively detect Lyme bacteria and other tick-borne infections, so it is often missed.
- There are many strains of any one tick-borne illness, with more being found all the time.
- Current Canadian Lyme testing was designed for surveillance purposes only and was not intended as a diagnostic tool. It is only supportive to a clinical diagnosis. (Diagnosis made by the doctor)
- The Canadian two-tiered test lacks sensitivity (especially in the early stages) and therefore not everyone with Lyme bacterium will test positive. It is written directly on the package for the Elisa test that "Negative results (either first or second stage) should not be used to exclude Lyme disease". Because of this, a prudent physician well-versed in tick-borne illnesses will keep looking despite a negative test result.
Lab tests to identify antibodies to the bacteria can help confirm or rule out the clinical diagnosis. These tests are most reliable a few weeks after an infection, after your body has had time to develop antibodies. The ELISA test must be positive before the Western Blot is done. There are variations and other tests being developed including a DNA test. Two-tiered testing is generally regarded as poor at best and should only be used to assist in clinical diagnosis.
Two-tiered testing in Canada includes:
ELISA Test: Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay test is the test used most often to detect Lyme disease. ELISA detects antibodies to B. burgdorferi. But because it can sometimes provide false-positive results, it's not used as the sole basis for diagnosis. This test might not be positive during the early stage of Lyme disease.
WESTERN BLOT Test: If the ELISA test is positive, this test is usually done to confirm the diagnosis. In this two-step approach, the Western blot detects antibodies to several proteins of B. burgdorferi. When talking to your doctor, request the Western blot test specifically.
Other tests are available. Tests performed outside Canada will not be recognized by the Canadian Medical System.
Armin Labs, Germany (click here) ELISPOT Test: Lymphocyte transformation.
“Borrelia infections do not only show humoral immune responses by antibodies, but can activate T-lymphocytes at the same time. Once Borrelia burgdorferi is not active anymore, the T-cellular immune response should vanish.”
Igenex Inc. California (click here) Igenex uses more than one strain of the bacteria as the basis of their test, and, they are the only laboratory we are aware of that uses a human derived strain as opposed to a tick derived strain. This human strain may be significant as to why more Canadians are getting well after a positive Igenex test, followed then by aggressive treatment.
PCR Test: (Polymerase Chain Reaction): While PCR testing is highly accurate when the Lyme DNA is detected, this test does produce many false negatives. This is because Lyme bacteria are sparse and may not be in the sample tested.
Antigen Test: Antigen detection tests look for a unique Lyme protein in body fluids (e.g. blood, urine, joint fluid). People who test negative on other indirect tests may test positive on this test.