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ELISA and Western Blot Tests for Lyme

Lyme disease is a growing problem in the United States. This year, the CDC estimated that they are possibly 10 times the number of cases than those that are actually reported, making it nearly 300,000 cases a year!

We’ve mentioned that diagnosis can be an issue with Lyme disease. Its symptoms are many, but there is only one telltale sign of Lyme. If a patient goes to the doctor with a large bull’s eye rash, it is a clear symptom of Lyme and the patient will quickly be put on antibiotics. If, however, a patient comes in complaining of fatigue and fever, there are numerous ailments that it could be and Lyme may not be the first thought, especially if the patient doesn’t remember any tick bites.

The best way to diagnose Lyme is through a series of blood tests that gauge your body’s reaction to the disease. Even these, unfortunately, are not a 100% accurate. If the test is taken too early, there may be no presence of antibodies in your blood.

The first test most often used for Lyme is called the Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test. The test looks for antibodies for the Lyme causing bacteria, B. burgdorferi. The ELISA test isn’t enough to confirm Lyme disease because it isn’t 100% accurate. According to Lymedisease.org, it isn’t sensitive enough to detect all antibodies. Additionally, it can result in some false positives so a Western Blot test is usually requested to confirm.

A Western Blot test looks at different proteins of the blood to detect the antibodies. For the Western Blot test, blood is placed on a strip that creates bands when certain proteins are present. When proteins are high, the bands appear darker. To gauge the presence of signs, the number, placement and color of the bands are analyzed. The bands look similar to a barcode when printed out. If the ELISA test says that a patient has Lyme and the Western Blot doesn’t, Lyme is not the probable cause of symptoms. If both are positive, however, the patients will most likely start treatment to combat Lyme.

Our bodies normally won’t show the antibody proteins if the test is taken too early. The best time to take the tests is 4 to 6 weeks after infection.

The key to Lyme is vigilance. Make sure to do a thorough tick check after spending any time in the outdoors where ticks may be present. If you are bitten, make note of where and when and, if possible, keep the tick. Yes, I said keep the tick. Place the tick in a plastic bag just in case you do get sick and you need the tick tested.

At Mosquito Squad, we protect families from the dangers of tick through tick control for the yard. A combination of our barrier spray and tick tubes will cut down on the tick population drastically in the defined area. If you have any questions on ticks or Lyme, please reach out to your local Mosquito Squad office.

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* Tick control not available in MI without a license

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