Laboratory Testing

 

Several forms of laboratory testing for Lyme disease are available, some of which have not been adequately validated. Most recommended tests are blood tests that measure antibodies made in response to the infection. These tests may be falsely negative in patients with early disease, but they are quite reliable for diagnosing later stages of disease.

The serological laboratory tests most widely available and employed are the Western blot and ELISA. A two-tiered protocol is recommended by the CDC: the more sensitive ELISA is performed first, if it is positive or equivocal, the more specific Western blot is run. The reliability of testing in diagnosis remains controversial, however studies show the Western blot IgM has a specificity of 94–96% for patients with clinical symptoms of early Lyme disease.

Erroneous test results have been widely reported in both early and late stages of the disease. These errors can be caused by several factors, including antibody cross-reactions from other infections including Epstein-Barr virus and cytomegalovirus,as well as herpes simplex virus.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for Lyme disease have also been developed to detect the genetic material (DNA) of the Lyme disease spirochete. PCR tests are susceptible to false-positive results from poor laboratory technique. Even when properly performed, PCR often shows false-negative results with blood and CSF specimens. Hence PCR is not widely performed for diagnosis of Lyme disease. However PCR may have a role in diagnosis of Lyme arthritis because it is highly sensitive in detecting ospA DNA in synovial fluid. With the exception of PCR, there is no currently practical means for detection of the presence of the organism, as serologic studies only test for antibodies of Borrelia. High titers of either immunoglobulin G (IgG) or immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies to Borrelia antigens indicate disease, but lower titers can be misleading. The IgM antibodies may remain after the initial infection, and IgG antibodies may remain for years.

Western blot, ELISA and PCR can be performed by either blood test via venipuncture or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) via lumbar puncture. Though lumbar puncture is more definitive of diagnosis, antigen capture in the CSF is much more elusive; reportedly CSF yields positive results in only 10-30% of patients cultured. The diagnosis of neurologic infection by Borrelia should not be excluded solely on the basis of normal routine CSF or negative CSF antibody analyses.

New techniques for clinical testing of Borrelia infection have been developed, such as LTT-MELISA, which is capable of identifying the active form of Borrelia infection (Lyme disease). Others, such as focus floating microscopy, are under investigation. New research indicates chemokine CXCL13 may also be a possible marker for neuroborreliosis.

Some laboratories offer Lyme disease testing using assays whose accuracy and clinical usefulness have not been adequately established. These tests include urine antigen tests, immunofluorescent staining for cell wall-deficient forms of Borrelia burgdorferi, and lymphocyte transformation tests. In general, CDC does not recommend these tests.

 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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