Lyme disease test

Other names: Anti-Borrelia Burgdorferi IgM/IgG

The Lyme disease test is used to detect the antibodies produced in response to the bacteria, which cause Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by a spiral-shaped bacterium known as Borrelia burgdorferi; the bacterium is carried by sheep in the UK and deer in the USA; a person becomes infected by the bacteria by means of a bite from a tick, which has been living on the deer or sheep. Lyme disease can be very serious; in most cases, the first symptom to affect the patient is a type of rash, known as a ’bullseye’ rash around the site of the tick bite.

When is the test used?

The test is used to check if a person has been exposed to the bacterium which causes Lyme disease. Usually, the test is ordered when a doctor suspects that a patient has got Lyme disease; symptoms usually begin with a rash, which extends outwards from the site of the tick bite. As the infections develops, patients may also experience symptoms including arthritis, inflammation of the heart muscle and conditions which affect the central nervous system, such as meningitis. Symptoms tend to vary between individuals.

Antibodies are not produced until around 6 weeks after the person has been infected by the bacterium; consequently, it is rather difficult to reach a diagnosis. However, the antibody test can be used to check the levels of certain types of antibodies known as IgM and IgG. This test can also detect antibodies produced to fight off other types of spiral bacteria, which include those that cause syphilis and leptospirosis.

How is the test performed?

The test is done by taking a sample of blood from a vein in the arm; a needle is inserted into a vein in the arm and the blood is drawn out and collected in a syringe. When the doctor or nurse has a sufficient blood sample, it will be bottled, labelled and sent away to the laboratory for evaluation.

What do the test results show?

A healthy individual does not have any antibodies of the Borrelia burgdorferi form of bacteria; consequently, if the test comes back positive this means that the individual has been exposed to the bacterium; in most cases, this means that the patient has Lyme disease.

If the test comes back negative, it is likely that the patient does not have Lyme disease; however, the negative result may also mean that the levels of antibody are too low for the test to detect so a more sensitive test may be ordered.

Specific Blood Tests

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