By GREGORY ZELLER //
A gaggle of academic, public health and commercial-healthcare specialists gathered under Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s mighty banner have published findings that could rewrite the book on Lyme disease detection.
When the laboratory-diagnostics experts convened for a 2016 Banbury Center meeting – such gatherings, held at CSHL’s on-campus think tank, are generally regarded among the best international scientific workshops – they focused on Lyme, and specifically, earlier detection of a disease that strikes anew some 300,000 times a year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After months of extrapolation and study, those experts published findings Dec. 7 advocating improvements in the early diagnosis of the Lyme infection, by levering advanced technologies that reduce the number of positive tests required.
According to CSHL, current laboratory standards for Lyme detection pit antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria responsible for the disease, in a “two-tiered protocol” involving a “sensitive first test” followed by an immunoblot assay to “increase specificity.”
Such “indirect detection” serologic tests have been favored since 1994, the laboratory noted, and through the years, “important shortcomings have been identified,” including ineffectiveness in the early weeks of infection.
But in a new study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, a peer-reviewed medical journal published by Oxford University Press, the experts from the 2016 Banbury Center meeting – after reviewing new genome-sequencing technologies and recent scientific data on the interactions between antibodies and Borrelia burgdorferi proteins – championed a new generation of Lyme disease diagnostics.
The article, titled “Advances in Serodiagnostic Testing for Lyme Disease Are at Hand,” states that routine cases of suspected Lyme disease need only a positive or negative result from a single multiplex assay (or combination of assays). The “Western blot” immunoblot – the secondary assay that “has proven to be confusing to many doctors,” according to CSHL – is no longer required.
So say the 27 authors who affixed their John Hancocks and professional cred to “Advances in Serodiagnostic Testing,” including senior author Steven Schutzer, a