In a recent research study conducted by Rutgers University (link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181011090520.htm), researchers found ways to detect Lyme disease bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, weeks sooner than currently used tests (ELISA and Western blot).
“The new tests that directly detect the Lyme agent’s DNA are more exact and are not susceptible to the same false-positive results and uncertainties associated with current FDA-approved indirect tests,” according to the article.
How this test plans to do that is still not entirely clear.
CNBC (link: also reports of a urine test, Nanotrap (developed by Ceres Nanosciences), to test for Lyme bacteria, and a vaccine, Valneva (French company), which will stimulate an immune response.
Why is this such a huge breakthrough for Lyme?
Current Lyme tests have been the standard since 1994. For the past 24 years, we have made little to no advancements toward accurate diagnosing of Lyme disease. Thousands are misdiagnosed each year, suffering because tests for Lyme have come back with false-negative after false-negative.
The current problem with Lyme testing is that it can not distinguish between an active infection or a past, inactive infection. This means that if a person has been exposed to the bacteria, they may still test positively. In the same regard, it is unlikely for a person to test positively for Lyme disease if they have not been infected for 4-6 weeks, even if they do, in fact, have Lyme disease.
However, the most miraculous part of this new discovery may just be that if Lyme disease is caught early on, it can more likely be treated and symptoms will less likely persist after treatment. Waiting for test results can mean getting treated too late or being misdiagnosed and not get treated at all.
Initially, we still have questions.
- When will these tests be available to the public?
We know that the Nanotrap test is estimating FDA approval by late 2019. However, does it seem unlikely that the FDA will work with Ceres to truly reduce approval time? It’s hard to say.
2) Will there be harmful side effects?
Currently, Valneva is in Phase 1 trials and is reporting “no serious side effects.” However, this could be problematic in that the possible negative effects may not be initially visible.
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia (link: https://www.historyofvaccines.org/index.php/content/articles/history-lyme-disease-vaccine) argues that another vaccine is not likely to pop up anytime soon. In short, a previous vaccine, LYMERix, received negative backlash from the media when the vaccine supposedly caused arthritis. This resulted in the company being sued and voluntarily removing their product from the market.
Some people of the Lyme community argue that a cure has not been found for Lyme because of pharmaceutical companies and their hidden agendas. After learning about the history of the Lyme vaccine, one could also argue that companies with good intentions are afraid to release a product that could potentially end in a lawsuit.
This article (link: https://www.pressherald.com/2018/01/07/lyme-disease-vaccine-sees-only-plodding-progress/) argues that it’s ridiculous to claim that a Lyme vaccine was actually causing Lyme and explains why dogs can still get vaccinated for Lyme.
3) How will this affect those who may have already been diagnosed, if at all? Will their course of treatment be modified?
We are unsure of how this will all play out, but it’s making us hopeful. Despite how helpless false-hope can make us feel, studies (link: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/7418/4b22d5da43fade56e28c4b365add33704175.pdf
show that “hope is still central to healing and personal well-being” and that “it may occasionally be ethical to encourage some degree of optimistic bias, and perhaps even positive illusion.”
Are you feeling hopeful about the future of Lyme vaccinations, tests…and maybe even a cure one day?