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A Single Test is Able to Diagnose 8 Tick-Borne Diseases

Scientists from the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health have announced a new test for tick-borne diseases (TBDs) with increased accuracy in Nature: Scientific Reports. The TBD Serochip is a single test that can differentiate between Lyme disease and 7 other TBDs.

The current procedure to diagnose Lyme disease requires 2 separate tests and the criteria for diagnosis is notorious for inaccurate results. The team of researchers from CII along with scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Roche Sequencing Solutions, Farmingdale State College, and Stony Brook University, conducted the investigation to find standard test for Lyme disease and other TBDs including Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichia, and Powassan virus or Heartland virus.

“Each year, approximately 3 million clinical specimens are tested for TBDs in the United States. Nonetheless, the true incidence of TBDs is likely greatly underestimated, as patients with presumed TBDs are rarely tested for the full range of tick-borne agents, and only a fraction of positive cases are properly reported," said Nischay Mishra, PhD, a co-lead author of the study, in a press release.

According to the investigators, the TBD Serochip can test 170,000 protein fragments for the existence of pathogens connected to 8 different types of TBDs. As new TBDs are discovered, scientists will be able to alter the TBD Serochip to detect the new disease in less than 4 weeks’ time. The current version also tests for a newer virus, Long Island tick rhabdovirus, which was discovered in Amblyomma americanum ticks.

Because ticks frequently carry more than 1 type of pathogen, the TBD Serochip can identify if a person is infected with multiple types of pathogens. The investigators report “finding antibodies to another agent in 26% of blood specimens from patients with TBD.” The test will also provide information for scientists to observe antibody responses and interactions between TBD agents on how the disease progresses, as well as how genetically diverse pathogens affect immune response.

"Diagnosing tick-borne illness is a difficult journey for patients, delaying effecting treatment," said senior author W. Ian Lipkin, MD, director of CII and John Snow Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia, in the press release. "The TBD Serochip promises to make diagnosis far easier, offering a single, accurate test for 8 different TBDs. Early detection of infection enables rapid and appropriate treatment."

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