Wednesday, 11 December 2019

New Form of Lyme Disease Detected by State-of-the-Art Test

IGeneX Laboratory Publishes Results of Novel Line Immunoblot Testing for Tick-borne Relapsing Fever

A novel test for a new form of Lyme disease was described in a report published in the prestigious medical journal Healthcare (Basel) ( The new test detects exposure to tick-borne relapsing fever, a Lyme-related disease transmitted by ticks that is spreading worldwide.

Lyme disease is a tick-borne infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of corkscrew-shaped bacteria known as a spirochete (pronounced spiro’keet). Recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that Lyme disease is much more common than previously thought, with over 400,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States. That makes annual new cases of Lyme disease in this country about four times more common than new cases of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and syphilis combined.

Recently another form of tick-borne disease caused by relapsing fever Borrelia has been recognized in the United States and internationally. Until now there has been no reliable test for exposure to this family of Borrelia spirochetes. The new study describes a sensitive and specific test called a line immunoblot developed by IGeneX Laboratory that detects antibodies against relapsing fever Borrelia. IGeneX had previously developed a line immunoblot test for exposure to Lyme spirochetes related to Borrelia burgdorferi (

The current study was a collaborative effort by an international team of scientists. Researchers included Jyotsna S. Shah, Song Liu, Iris Du Cruz, Akhila Poruri and Ranjan Ramasamy from IGenex Laboratory in Milpitas, CA; clinicians Мariia Shkilna, Mykhaylo Korda, Ivan Klishch, Stepan Zaporozhan, Kateryna Shtokailo and Mykhaylо Andreychyn from Ternopil National Medical University in Ukraine; biochemist Rajan Maynard from Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA; and internist Raphael Stricker from Union Square Medical Associates in San Francisco, CA.

“Our findings demonstrate the complexity of Lyme disease,” said Dr. Shah, the lead author of the study who is President and Laboratory Director of IGeneX. “The new test shows exposure to another form of the disease that cannot be detected with currently available Lyme testing.”

In the study, the line immunoblot test was used to detect antibodies against relapsing fever Borrelia in well-characterized serum samples from patients in Australia, Ukraine and the United States. The novel test showed high sensitivity for these antibodies, and there were very few false-positive results.

“Line immunoblot testing offers a reliable method to detect exposure to relapsing fever Borrelia,” said Dr. Shkilna, who treats Lyme disease in Ukraine. “The test can demonstrate exposure in individual patients and help us understand the global spread of tick-borne relapsing fever.”

Dr. Stricker pointed to the implications of the new test for Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment. “Lyme disease is not a simple infection anymore,” he said. “We need to pay attention to new forms of the disease, and the line immunoblot test is a good start.”

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology

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