Testing and diagnosing for Lyme and co-infections is not a simple feat. The most common testing used for diagnosing Lyme disease is the two-tiered tests, recommended by the CDC. These include the ELISA and the Western Blot. Both are indirect tests, meaning, they merely measure the immune system’s response to an infectious agent instead of actually looking for components of the agent itself. Unfortunately, many physicians falsely yield to the CDC definition case of Lyme disease in order to make a diagnosis. However, these tests were originally designed for surveillance of only one single species of Borrelia. They were actually never intended to be used in making clinical diagnosis. These “standard” Lyme tests can give false negatives between 50% and 80% of the time, depending on which study you are looking at.
According to the CDC website, “Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (eg. rash), and the possibility of exposure to ticks”. Yet despite this advise, doctors are, ineptly, still relying on laboratory tests to definitively diagnose a patient. This current method of “diagnosing” has serious, and sometimes, deadly consequences for patients. Many patients, indeed, have Lyme disease and/or co-infections, but are denied treatment due to a falsely negative lab result.
Types of Testing
There are other tests available. However, they are often not covered by insurance, because they are not the two-tier testing recommended by IDSA (Infectious Disease Society of America) guidelines.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing is considered “direct” testing because it detects the actual bacteria, rather than just the immune system’s response to it. Though PCR testing is more accurate than the Western Blot, they can still produce false negatives. False negatives are possible, due to the Lyme bacteria being broadly disseminated throughout the body, therefore may not be present in the given sample.
Antigen detection tests help identify what organisms are causing a disease in a patient by looking for unique proteins. These tests can be taken from fluids such as blood, urine, or joint fluid.
Culture tests take a sample of the patient’s blood, or other fluid. These tests attempt to grow specific bacteria in a special lab environment in order to detect the pathogens.
While these 3 approaches to testing may offer more accurate testing, they are still imperfect. There is no current test that offers complete reliability.
There are several private labs that offer more sensitive Lyme disease and other vector borne illness testing. The most popular, is IgeneX. These guys have developed several industry leading tests. According to their website, IGeneX tests are based on the latest findings of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. In addition, they boast to provide the most complete and accurate results for diagnostic purposes. IgeneX also states they test for more species than any other lab.
While IgeneX is still in the lead, Vibrant Wellness Labs seems to be competitively right behind them. They proudly claim, In 2018, Vibrant “launched a revolutionary new test that is able to detect Lyme and other co infections at a much more sensitive level than competitors.” Thus, “yielding the most accurate tick borne infections test on the market.” They continue to say, their tick borne diseases panel is “the first of its kind to be run on a silicon micro-array platform, providing the highest level of specificity and sensitivity in the industry for detecting tickborne diseases.” Vibrant is currently only available in the US, and cannot ship to the state of New York.
DNA ConneXions utilizes a Lyme panel that “detects the causative agent of Lyme Disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, in addition to 10 other common vector borne pathogens”. According to their website, their Lyme panel kit tests for four different genes that are found in Borrelia burgdorferi and 8 common Lyme disease vector borne co-infectors and other organisms. DNA ConneXions is currently unavailable to the state of New York and encourages that if you live in NY to file a complaint with your governor’s office.
Armin Labs explains on their website, that they “are specialized in T-cellular tests (EliSpot), B-cellular tests (IgA, IgM and IgG-antibodies), and NK cell tests (CD57, CD56) for several bacterial, viral, parasitic, and fungal infections.” Please keep in mind that their website warns, since March 2020, tests are temporarily unavailable to U.S. residents.
Galaxy Diagnostics is another private lab offering advanced testing for Lyme and other vector borne illnesses. Their website proudly states that they offer the most sensitive and specific diagnostic tests and testing strategies that “go beyond the limits of detection for emerging infectious diseases.” They proudly “deploy sample enrichment technologies that power direct detection of slow-growing, low abundance flea and tick-borne infections that often fly under the radar of conventional testing.”
As mentioned before, testing and diagnosing for Lyme and co-infections is not an easy task. To learn more about each of these testing facilities, please visit their websites. Pricing for tests vary with each lab, and depend on which panel you or your doctor choose. Unfortunately, private labs usually do not accept insurance, therefore, testing is “out of pocket”. However, you may be able to file with your insurance for partial reimbursement. You may be denied, but it’s worth the shot! Worst case scenario, they tell you no.
We are not medical professionals and cannot recommend any specific testing. Please consult your doctor in order to find the right test for you and your family. Check with each lab’s website for updates on testing, availability, and pricing.
This post can also be found at Lyme Warrior, along with other awesome resources!