A new, surer diagnostic test for Lyme disease could held medical efforts to improve outcomes for persons who are infected.
State Sen. Susan Serino, R-Hyde Park, and a panel of experts from her advisory board on Lyme and tick-borne illness told attendees at a forum Monday at John Jay High School about what they said is a new, game-changing, diagnostic test for Lyme bacteria.
Jill Auerbach, co-chairwoman of the advisory board, said the current Lyme test is indirect and does not indicate the presence of the disease-causing bacteria.
“We need an accurate test, desperately need an accurate test that can determine who has current, active disease,” Auerbach said. “The test that we have right now only tests for your body’s reaction. … It’s totally unreliable. Even the Centers for Disease Control says it’s unreliable.”
The ineffectiveness of the current test not only can give false-negative indications for Lyme but can cause insurance companies to balk at paying for treatment that is partly speculative. The nature of the existing test also makes doctors hesitant to diagnose Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness that long has been a problem in the Hudson Valley.
“From a clinical standpoint, the diagnosis to me was that I had neurological Lyme, and my primary-care physician agreed with me,” McClaude said. “She had a consult with the infectious disease specialist. I went back to see the infectious disease specialist, and the infectious disease specialist felt like it wasn’t [infected]. I had a negative blood serum test result. She was only looking at that one piece of empirical data. Well, because you’re negative in the blood, therefore you don’t have it. The insurance company isn’t going to pay for anything more than 28 days of doxycycline. Here’s your 28 days, good luck, and where does that really leave you?”
After battling with his insurance company, McClaude said, he found a doctor who acknowledged his disease and, as a result, McClaude has been improving via intravenous antibiotics.
Holly Ahern, an associate professor of microbiology at SUNY Adirondack, said a new test being developed at the University of Northern Arizona will test for quantities of all Lyme-causing pathogens in a patient, not only replacing an ineffective test with an effective one but making it less expensive for insurance companies, thereby providing them with the incentive to pay.
The panel at the Monday event said those suffering from undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed, Lyme disease can look forward to the new test, called Lyme Seek, being available in two years or less.
A public Lyme disease forum scheduled for July 15 in Albany is expected to expand on information about the new test and recent research findings.