A potential new test for diagnosing Lyme disease

Black deer (deer). Credit: Lennart Tange

For scientists and doctors, one of the Holy Grails to successfully treat and cure Lyme disease is developing early detection tests, which show when people have recovered from an infection, and can detect re-infection.

Now, researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine say they have only discovered such a experimental method. It detects a type of immunity produced by infected people on something that the Lyme virus receives from the host to grow. Researchers believe tests to identify these autoantibodies — antibiotics that err and react with tissues or organs — can give doctors a way to diagnose the disease early, determine if the vaccine is working, and identify re-infected patients. .

The study authors were Peter Gwynne, Luke Clendenen, and Linden Hu of the school’s Department of Molecular Biology, and colleagues at the Center for Allergy and Disease at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Their study was published on March 15 Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Lyme disease, discovered five years ago off the coast of Connecticut and spreading to New England and the Atlantic Ocean, affects nearly 500,000 people in the United States each year. As a result of a bite from an infected tick, it is usually not detected unless one notices a rash growing around the bite.

Lyme disease can lead to long-term complications including arthritis, fatigue, insomnia, and in the most severe cases, attacks of heart and brain tissue. Infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, Lyme disease can often be treated with antibiotics. But in 10 to 20 percent of cases, the effects of the disease may persist.

Lyme disease testing exists, but it is limited, says Gwynne, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Tufts School of Medicine who won the Tufts Launchpad Accelerator award for his work on Lyme disease.

“The traditional Lyme test can be effective for a long time after treatment – years or even lifetime,” he said. “Therefore, for some people who suffer from chronic symptoms of Lyme disease, doctors are not sure if the patient has chronic Lyme disease, cured and relapsed, or is recovering and is suffering from something else. “

Targeting fats to fight Lyme

“We started this current project to learn how Borrelia burgdorferi get essential nutrients, like fat, to grow,” Gwynne said. “Lyme bacteria, despite being a highly successful virus, are more dependent on other organisms than on other nutrients.”

“In our research, we found that cells take fat called phospholipids directly from its surroundings in the house, and place it on top of it,” said Hu, vice president of research at the school with Paul and Elaine Chervinsky. Professor. and Immunology. “This study led us to look at whether the use of direct fat and viruses can cause the immune system to recognize it as an external factor and cause cancer cells.”

What scientists have discovered is that both animals and patients infected with Lyme virus have developed autoantibodies to several phospholipids. Because autoantibodies can be harmful to the host, these autoantibodies are highly regulated and quickly disappear as soon as the stimulus is removed.

“Antibodies also seem to develop faster than traditional antibiotics for Lyme disease — perhaps because your body has already created these autoantibodies and reduced them,” Hu said.

While current tests make it difficult to detect recurrence or successful treatment, “anti-phospholipid autoantibodies — due to rapid growth with treatment — may fill these gaps as additional testing,” said Gwynne. “They can allow a diagnosis to be made whether the treatment eliminates the Lyme virus. They also allow the patient to determine if he or she has been infected in the past.”

Gwynne and Hu have a temporary waiting list describing the use of antiphospholipid drugs in the diagnosis of Lyme disease. Their hope is that if their research is confirmed by further research, the research company will be able to begin developing their own business model within two years.

Can longer periods be predicted?

The biggest question, which has not been explored in the current paper, is whether these autoantibodies can detect a subset of patients who will develop symptoms of Lyme disease after treatment. Up to 20% of patients may develop post-Lyme disease symptoms. Diagnosing these patients at present only by clinical symptoms, it is possible that patients with different causes of their symptoms are included. And clinical trials in patients with Lyme disease are unlikely to be effective if this occurs.

Anti-phospholipid antibodies are usually seen in autoimmune diseases such as lupus, and are associated with. bleeding and persistent inflammation leading to certain disease conditions, “Hu said.” Most of the symptoms that persist in patients who continue to have symptoms after being diagnosed with Lyme disease are similar. and such autoimmune diseases. “

“If it ends up being a link between the development of symptoms of Lyme disease and these viruses, this will be the first test that could be used to differentiate the group of patients with Lyme disease,” he said. “It will allow us to test specific new therapies that are targeted to a specific system.”

Can long-dead bacteria be responsible for the symptoms of Lyme disease?

Learn more:
Peter J. Gwynne et al, Antiphospholipid autoantibodies in Lyme disease arose after the destruction of host host phospholipids by Borrelia burgdorferi, Journal of Clinical Investigation (2022). DOI: 10.1172 / JCI152506

hint: A potential new trial for the diagnosis of Lyme disease (2022, March 15) has been retrieved 15 March 2022 from

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