Lyme disease study employs animal technique xenodiagnosis on humans
Lyme disease is the subject of a new study that has yielded modest yet promising results at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. The researchers employed xenodiagnosis—until now a successful diagnostic technique generally reserved for animals–on humans. In animal studies, Xenodiagnosis involves using another animal in order to find a diagnosis.
The technique was previously successful in diagnosing the similar parasitic infection Chagas disease. In this case, xenodiagnosis was used to determine whether a human subject showed signs of Lyme disease in his/her blood. The details of this research, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, revealed that out of the 12 people participating, two participants’ Lyme disease parasite DNA was transferred to a previously uninfected tick. (Ticks, of course, are the potential carriers responsible for infecting humans with Lyme disease.)
People with Lyme disease are usually put on antibiotics and after a few weeks are usually healthy again. However, between 10 and 20 percent of patients with Lyme disease report suffering from aches and pains even after they are no longer infected. The symptoms sometimes last up to six months following the contraction of Lyme disease. This is known as Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS).
Dr. Adriana Marques, lead author of the project, told the press: “This is a very initial study; our main objective was to develop the technique in humans. It is very hard to find evidence of the bacteria itself, not just antibodies, in infected people once the skin rash is gone.”
Having concluded that xenodiagnosis is a safe, acceptable technique to use on human subjects, she acknowledges that they still have more important work to do. The next step is to connect this diagnostic method to the persistent symptoms.
Editorial co-author of the study, Linda K. Bockenstedt, of Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, added: “There is consensus that post-Lyme disease syndrome as defined in the paper does exist and that it occurs in a minority of people. We do not know why this occurs, and the reasons may not be the same for everyone.”
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia).