HomeMedicinePublic HealthCan Lyme disease be diagnosed at an early stage?

Can Lyme disease be diagnosed at an early stage?

Recently, researchers investigated a new reliable multiple platforms’ method that helps to diagnose Lyme disease at an early stage.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterial pathogen Borrelia Burgdorferi, which is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks. Due to climate changes and warmer winters, ticks are becoming active earlier in the season and spreading to new territories, making the disease more frequent in different parts of the world. Typical symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, and characteristic bull’s-eye skin rash, known as erythema migrans. If Lyme disease is diagnosed early in the course of the disease, it can be treated well with antibiotics and have minimal long-term health consequences. Unfortunately, not all the patients have typical symptoms and the current diagnostic method takes a long time, from days to weeks, to confirm the diagnosis. As a result, people without appropriate treatment can have rheumatologic, cardiac, and neurological complications.

Researchers from the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University conducted a study in order to identify reliable microbe-specific biomarkers that might help make diagnosis faster and more accurate. The results were published in the journal Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.

For the study investigators used a macaque (monkey) model infected by ticks. They used a multi-platform approach to analyze an infected animal’s blood and urine. Proteins that were identified more than once were classified as potential biomarkers, whereas three and more times were classified as being high-potential biomarkers.

By direct detection method, using mass spectrometry (MS) analysis, the researchers discovered six proteins in macaques blood, which were overlapped in multiple samples. Urine sample results were not significant, as proteins were found only in one sample.

In addition to MS, researchers used an indirect detection method, known as immunoprecipitation, to enhance the protein detection and to identify proteins below the levels detectable by MS. By adding this step, researchers identified additional biomarkers of interest that might be useful in diagnosing Lyme disease diagnosis in its earliest stages.

The researchers suggest that these six newly discovered Lyme disease-associated proteins could be used in combination with established Lyme disease diagnosis, to provide a more accurate and early diagnostic procedure. In addition, a new multi-platform approach may be used for diagnosing many other infectious diseases that are difficult to detect using traditional methods. Future studies in humans will be required to validate these results.

Written by Anna Otvodenko


Pflughoeft, K., Mash, M., Hasenkampf, N., Jacobs, M., Tardo, A., Magee, D., Song, L., LaBaer, J., Philipp, M., Embers, M. and AuCoin, D. (2019). Multi-platform Approach for Microbial Biomarker Identification Using Borrelia burgdorferi as a Model. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, 9.

EurekAlert!. (2019). An innovative new diagnostic for Lyme disease. [online] Available at: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-08/asu-ain082519.php [Accessed 30 Aug. 2019].


Image by Gerhard Wiedemann from Pixabay


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