Discovery of new Lyme strains invalidates current tests

spirochete-nih-400.gif Benjamin Luft, M.D., Professor of Medicine at Stony Brook University Medical Center, discovered that four highly virulent mutations of Borrelia burgdorferi, the spirochete that causes Lyme disease, may account for the alarming increase in cases for the past 20 years. Luft’s investigation and findings were initially reported in Emerging Infectious Diseases. This genetic drift of the organism could explain why current Lyme disease tests, which were defined nearly two decades ago, are missing approximately 75% of the confirmed positive Lyme cases, according to a recent Johns Hopkins study. Pam Weintraub, author of “Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic,” recently interviewed Luft for the Psychology Today website about his findings:

“What we will find,” says Ben Luft of Stony Brook, “are proteins we never tested for on our ELISAs and Western blots—proteins we were never even aware of. But they will be the critical markers for invasive, infectious Lyme disease. Perhaps people who test negative on the old tests will become positive when we look for the right markers.”

Weintraub also discusses how the classic Lyme studies relied heavily on disappearing rashes as an objective signs of a cure, yet if the researchers unknowingly used one of the non-invasive Lyme strains that stay in the skin, they may have to redo these original studies in order for them to be scientifically valid. She adds:

“The answers won’t be found in the twentieth-century technology of the Western blot, by today’s standards crude yet still trotted out by IDSA as evidence absolute that they are right. (The Western blot for Lyme is so flawed that even its major manufacturer says he has found numerous "band" patterns more accurate than the one in use today.) Instead of relying on flawed 20th century technology, we must look to the science of the twenty-first century, including state-of-the-art genomics and proteomics that allows for the sequencing of every gene and protein involved in every stage of Lyme. With evidence of this calibre we won't have to fight over the truth: We will know what's going on.”

The controversy over Lyme disease testing is the subject of the new investigative documentary, UNDER OUR SKIN, which will open in theaters nationwide this summer. westernblot.jpg Photo Caption: The CDC-endorsed Lyme Western Blot test, shown above, is the second step in determining whether a patient is considered "CDC positive." This outmoded test is problematic, and under the 2006 IDSA Lyme guidelines, the subjective interpretation of one blurry line can mean the difference between treatment or not for many patients.