The clinical diagnosis of Lyme borreliosis can be supported by various test methodologies; test kits are available from many manufacturers. Literature searches were carried out to identify studies that reported characteristics of the test kits. Of 50 searched studies, 18 were included where the tests were commercially available and samples were proven to be positive using serology testing, evidence of an erythema migrans rash, and/or culture.
Additional requirements were a test specificity of ≥85% and publication in the last 20 years. The weighted mean sensitivity for all tests and for all samples was 59.5%. Individual study means varied from 30.6% to 86.2%. Sensitivity for each test technology varied from 62.4% for Western blot kits, and 62.3% for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay tests, to 53.9% for synthetic C6 peptide ELISA tests and 53.7% when the two-tier methodology was used.
Test sensitivity increased as dissemination of the pathogen affected different organs; however, the absence of data on the time from infection to serological testing and the lack of standard definitions for “early” and “late” disease prevented analysis of test sensitivity versus time of infection. The lack of standardization of the definitions of disease stage and the possibility of retrospective selection bias prevented clear evaluation of test sensitivity by “stage”.
The sensitivity for samples classified as acute disease was 35.4%, with a corresponding sensitivity of 64.5% for samples from patients defined as convalescent. Regression analysis demonstrated an improvement of 4% in test sensitivity over the 20-year study period. The studies did not provide data to indicate the sensitivity of tests used in a clinical setting since the effect of recent use of antibiotics or steroids or other factors affecting antibody response was not factored in.
The tests were developed for only specific Borrelia species; sensitivities for other species could not be calculated.