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Greetings and welcome to my Lyme disease blog, a comfy cozy (and sometimes crazy!) place for cutting-edge information, encouragement and insight into the fastest-growing epidemic disease in the United States. In this blog you will find everything from bug-killing strategies to immune system and hormone help, as well as lifestyle and spiritual suggestions for healing from chronic illness involving Lyme disease. The information contained within this blog is based upon my own healing journey and what I have learned over the past eight years as I have been diligently digging and researching my way back to a better state of health. May you find it to be a source of hope, inspiration and wisdom in your own journey towards wellness.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lyme Disease Testing Goes Deeper

Up until now, labs have been able to test for only a few species of borrelia, babesia, and bartonella, and with only moderate accuracy, especially when it comes to the latter two infections. Besides the fact that chronic Lyme sufferers don't always produce antibodies to borrelia and infections aren't always detected in the bloodstream, many strains of these infections exist, and testing for only one or two may not reveal whether or not you have chronic Lyme.

Fortunately, Clongen Laboratories http://www.clongen.com, is working to expand its menu of testing for tick-borne infections. So far, it is the only lab I have heard of that tests for four species of borrelia, including burgdoferi, lonestari, afzelii and garinii, using PCR (polymerase chain reaction, which identifies bug DNA) testing, although I seem to recall one blogger, an ILADS-affiliated MD: http://www.lymemd.blogspot.com, writing that even more species of borrelia can be tested for at this lab. In his post on November 13th, he writes that this lab can also test for fifteen species of babesia! I did not find this information on Clongen's site but perhaps they have not listed all of the species that they test for there. In addition, they can apparently test for multiple species of bartonella, not just the commonly-known henslae. This is encouraging, because many species of the aforementioned infections exist, but labs have so far only concentrated on only one or two. What's more, current tests for babesia and bartonella are woefully inadequate, because these infections are extremely difficult to detect in the bloodstream.

Whether Clongen's DNA testing is more accurate than that of Fry labs or the others, however, I don't know. I would like to think that for the price of their testing, that their margin of error would be low, but this is tick-borne illness that we are talking about here, and no lab so far has been able to detect the B-B-B trio 100% of the time, due to errors in testing but also because infections aren't present in every random blood sample that gets squished under the microscope.

Still, if you've got the dough, doing DNA testing may provide a more complete picture of the infections you are dealing with. Earlier this year, when an Asyra device identified the energetic signatures of five different babesia species in my body, it brought to my mind the possibility that some of us might be dealing with unusual or multiple strains of infections, besides or beyond the usual borrelia burgdoferi, babesia microti and bartonella henslae.

Of course, I don't know how common or pernicious the "other" strains of these infections are, and how different the treatment protocol would be if a sufferer had borrelia afzelii instead of borrelia burgdorferi. Perhaps it depends somewhat on the type of treatment that is being undertaken; ie, homeopathy versus antibiotics. It seems that among the borrelia species, burgdorferi still rules as king in the United States, but since tests (up until now) have focused on identifying this species alone, it may be that it has simply been overrepresented. I don't know.

Finally, Clongen also tests for mycoplasma, anaplasma, ricksettia, and a couple of ehrlichia species, infections also common to the co-infected Lyme patient.


monkey girl said...

Although I'm alway glad to hear about new advancements in defining Lyme Disease, I'm worried that all this testing isn't translating into concrete cures. I've tested positive for 3 co-infections, however I've probably got more. My lyme doc doesn't feel the need to go 'test crazy' which we all know is EXPENSIVE because the protocol for treatment is the same for some of the co-infections I already have. I know some lyme docs like to test for everything, $3500 in testing fees. But how is the patient being best served by this? If 5 of the co-infections the doctor tested for are all treated with the same anti-biotic does it matter to test for all of them?

Connie Strasheim (aka Killabugger) said...

Hi Monkey Girl,

I agree that if the protocol your doc is using would be the same, no matter what Lyme bug you have, then why spend lots of $$$ for testing? The question about whether it serves the patient to know about how many different strains of each infection he/she had would only seem to be important if it affected that person's particular protocol. Or perhaps some want to know for other reasons; ie, if a person only has one borrelia strain but three bartonella, it might help draw conclusions about whether borrelia or bartonella is the "major" player in their symptom picture. Otherwise, I agree with you, that extensive testing may not always be beneficial to the patient. Many Lyme folks don't have the bucks to spend on lots of tests, either.