Diagnosing Lyme disease is extremely challenging. Lyme victims are commonly misdiagnosed with other illnesses, and, when a proper diagnosis is made, it’s often difficult to verify because accurate testing isn’t available.
Some doctors base their diagnosis on the presence of the classic “bull’s-eye” rash, and don’t require further tests. Others doctors require laboratory confirmation before treatment.
Culture blood tests
There are no commercially available blood culture tests for Lyme in Canada. In the United States one lab has recently offered a blood culture test for Lyme disease. Advanced Laboratory Services offers such a test and we await peer-reviewed published research on its effectiveness. This laboratory has recently come under criticism for a lack of published peer reviewed evidence based data and lack of outside validation of the test. see full article
The human immune system responds to bacteria by creating antibodies to fight against infection. Antibody tests measure the body’s response to a specific bacterial infection.
There are two common antibody tests for Lyme:
- ELISA test (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay)
- Western blot test. (In Canada these tests are Borrelia burgdorferi strain B31 based, however the recent introduction of a C10 peptide line dot test at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, MB is a step in the right direction. Better tests are still required.)
Laboratories who commonly test Canadians are …
Igenex Inc. in California 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.
Stony Brook University, New York State University of New York, Pathology, Laboratory Services offers a test that may pick up more cases of Lyme disease because they too use more than one strain as the basis of their tests. To our knowledge they do not use a human derived strain.
“Western blot” is the most accurate antibody test. ELISA tests are not sensitive enough for screening, and miss the infection often. When talking to your doctor, request the Western blot test specifically.
There are two other tests used to diagnose Lyme disease: PCR and Antigen
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR): While PCR 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 tests: 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.