Testing for Lyme disease can be problematic. Tests are often not as sensitive as they need to be; and false negatives can occur. This is one of the reasons that Lyme disease is a clinical diagnosis based on history and symptoms, to be backed up by lab work (not purely based 100% on lab results). A negative Lyme test does not always mean the absence of Lyme disease. Now there is a new Lyme disease test that is helping us to get a more accurate diagnosis of Lyme.
The lab offering the new test is called DNA Connexions. They have a very comprehensive Lyme panel that tests for a variety of strains of Borrelia (the bacteria that causes Lyme). It also tests for a variety of strains of co-infections. Here are the pathogens included in their Lyme panel:-
- Borrelia burgdorferi
- Borrelia recurrentis
- Borrelia miyamotoi
- Babesia divergens
- Babesia microti
- Babesia duncani
- Bartonella henselae
- Bartonella quintana
- Bartonella bacilliformis
- Anaplasma phagocytophillium
- Ehrlichia chafeensis
I feel like this is a pretty comprehensive line up of bugs in their various strains.
The other thing I like about the DNA Connexions panel is that it is a PCR test. That means that it is looking for DNA of the actual pathogens in the sample. Many Lyme tests are antibody tests – including the Western blots. While Western blots can be very useful, they still rely on one’s immune response as that is what they are measuring. The problem is, Lyme suppresses immune response. So we have a lab test that’s measuring immune response to a bacteria that’s suppressing immune response. You can see the problem!
PCR tests have historically been somewhat less sensitive than Western blots – but I’m finding this new panel to be pretty sensitive, and I’m liking it so far. It’s the newer kid on the block, and having used IGeneX primarily for 15 years now, I was admittedly slow to give it a chance. I still love IGeneX, and still order their Lyme panel including the Western blot, but now I try to do the DNA Connexions as well – those two together are a great combination and I feel pretty confident that we are finding accurate information from them when combined.
The other time I’m liking DNA Connexions is in someone with really long-term infection, where we just want to see if the infection is still active. Antibody tests don’t always give the best information for this – we want to see if the bugs are actually there, more so than an immune response, for which the IgG marker may always be elevated.
DNA Connexions is a urine test. It is recommended to either exercise for 30 minutes prior (ironic for a Lyme test, right?!). If one can’t do exercise, a deep tissue massage is another good option. The theory is that getting the metabolism and circulation cranking makes for a better, more accurate, test result.
The test is $500. Right now they’re running a little slow – about 6 week turnaround time, unless you pay $150 to expedite it. I think they got busier than expected quite quickly, so hopefully we’ll see those times shortening. I do think that for the number of markers they test, the price represents good value.
Although I still love IGeneX and use them extensively, it’s great that we have another option for Lyme and co-infection testing. The more information we have, the better we can identify Lyme disease and help those struggling with this horrible illness.