Is the Western Blot Capable of More Accuracy?

Is the Western Blot Capable of More Accuracy?

If simply adding other strains of the same Lyme species increases the western blot’s sensitivity, the changes needed in order to detect various Lyme species may be incredible.

The Lyme disease epidemic continues to rage world-wide in addition to the frightening explosion of confirmed cases in the US, and yet the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the IDSA continue to publish the clearly untrue statement that Lyme disease is hard to contract and easy to treat.

What many people do not understand is that the western blot was never meant to be a diagnostic authority but a tool to support clinical diagnosis.  The test measures antibodies, not the actual bacteria so if you have any positive bands on the western blot it means you have been exposed to Lyme disease.

It is the controversial (although why there is controversy is confusing in the extreme) amongst any intelligent mind, perhaps even more so with trained medical minds, why a western blot with any positive bands be considered a “false positive” or worse yet “negative” when the patient exhibits all of the symptoms of Lyme.

Add to that puzzle the requirement of a bulls-eye rash when researchers know that some viral strains of borrelia do not cause bulls-eye rashes (and even when they do, the rash is easily hidden in hair where tiny ticks could easily hide as they take their meal) and we must wonder if the CDC is purposefully dropping the ball.

Now, as science around Lyme and other tick-related diseases become more precise, the question begs to be asked: “Why isn’t the western blot more accurate?”

Furthermore, the proteins evaluated within the test are purposefully limited – in fact originally the test evaluated more proteins, some of which were much more indicative of the presence and activity of Borreliosis burgdorferi.

The extra bands were later removed along while at the same time the criteria for positive results was raised to demand more positive bands (five), even though one positive band should be enough to confirm a clinical diagnosis keeping in mind the CDC’s own instructions to use the western blot as a confirmation tool NOT a diagnostic tool.

Currently, Lyme disease tests in the United States are geared to detect a strain or two of a single species: Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto (SOURCE:GALDA – Georgia Lyme Disease Association.)  Even though we know there are many more strains capable of causing illness. (Some strains do not cause illness in humans, and some do not cause a rash.)

Another reason for negative results with Lyme infected specimens is due to differing proteins found among numerous strains of various B. burgdorferi species which provide further explanation for the reason some suspected Lyme patients may only show a positive band or two instead of the CDC’s required five.

A Chinese study found that changing western blot criteria to detect the prevalent strain of Lyme bacteria in their region increased the accuracy of the tests. Another study in the United States proved that mixing two infectious Borrelia strains in a western blot assay increased the test’s sensitivity.

If simply adding other strains of the same Lyme species increases the western blot’s sensitivity, the changes needed in order to detect various Lyme species may be incredible.

“Up to now, the only species in the complex Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato known to cause Lyme borreliosis in the United States has been B. burgdorferi sensu stricto. However, some atypical strains closely related to the previously designated genomic group DN127 have been isolated in the United States, mostly in California. […] we analyzed the nucleotide sequences of the rrf-rrl intergenic spacer regions from 19 atypical strains (18 from California and one from New York) and 13 North American B. burgdorferi sensu stricto  strains (6 from California). […] A heterogeneous group comprising strains belonging to the previously designated group DN127 clustered separately from B. burgdorferi sensu stricto.

Within this cluster, the deep branches expressing the distances between the rrf-rrl sequences reflect a high level of divergence. This unexpected diversity contrasts with the monomorphism exhibited by B. burgdorferi sensu stricto. […] We conclude that the taxonomy and phylogeny of North American B. burgdorferi sensu lato should be reevaluated.

For now, we propose that the genomic group DN127 should be referred to as a new species, B. bissettii sp. nov., and that other related but distinct strains, which require further characterization , be referred to as Borrelia spp. ” (SOURCE: Journal for Clinical Microbiology: “Expanded Diversity among Californian Borrelia Isolates and Description of Borrelia bissettii sp. nov. (Formerly Borrelia Group DN127)” December 1998.

For excellent information to better understand the current process for diagnosing Lyme and specifically the western blot, please read “Brenner Lab Tests.”

Following are recently published medical abstracts courtesy of Journal of Clinical Microbiology:

“Genetic Heterogeneity of Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato in the Southern United States Based on Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism and Sequence Analysis”

T. Lin, J. H. Oliver Jr.,L. Gao,.T. M. Kollars Jr., and K. L. Clark

(Originally posted February 8, 2012)

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One Response to Is the Western Blot Capable of More Accuracy?

  1. Pingback: How to Understand Lyme Tests and Prove Chronic Lyme Disease » Jenna's Lyme Blog

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