As always, I am not an expert. I have no advanced degrees in biology or infectious diseases. The facts stated below are correct as I understand them. You are encouraged to find your own information using the links provided. I have no financial disclosures to make; I have received no consideration or compensation for this post in any way. I simply want to make others aware of a new product and my opinion of it.
Lyme disease is caused by the borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that is transmitted to humans via ticks. It is endemic to every state in the northeastern USA, and is especially present in Pennsylvania and New York State. The CDC estimates that there are 300,000 cases of Lyme disease diagnosed each year, with children ages 5-9 being at most risk. It is a major concern in the practice of camp nurses in these areas. My camp, located in northern PA, has had several cases of diagnosed Lyme disease over the past few years, and I have also had friends who became debilitated due to the late diagnosis and treatment of Lyme. So I am always interested in any new tools to assist in Lyme identification, both personally and professionally.
Diagnosis of Lyme disease is often hampered by the fact that Lyme symptoms may mimic other diseases. Lyme disease has been termed "the great imitator" due to it often being mistaken for diseases such as chronic fatigue or rheumatoid arthritis. Most frustratingly, the most telling sign of Lyme disease, erythema migrans, is absent in 20% of diagnosed Lyme victims. This leads to many missed diagnoses and unnecessary prolonged illnesses.
A new product, the Lymenator, is being featured in several local media outlets in my area. It is a test that rapidly identifies the borrelia burgdorferi bacteria in ticks. For several days, it was in the news cycle and on Facebook. I reviewed the news reports and found implications of this product exciting.
The Lymenator is a rapid test performed on ticks to identify the borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, the causative organism of Lyme disease. The tick in question is crushed and mixed with a buffer solution. The solution is dropped onto a test strip, and within three minutes a result is produced. This is a vast improvement over the two to four weeks that laboratory testing would generally take. The test is reported to be 95-98% accurate at identifying the bacteria.
I was, however, skeptical. I have had experience with rapid tests for other diseases that produced excessive false positives or lacked sensitivity. I contacted the company and was provided with their in-house data; verified by an outside lab, that seems to indicate that the rapid test is on par with standard laboratory testing. It is more affordable, at about $12 a test, and of course, very fast.
This new product has the potential to improve the identification of persons who have removed an embedded tick and have potentially been exposed to Lyme disease. Presently, the CDC recommends prophylactic antibiotics for persons who have had a tick and are in areas where Lyme disease is prevalent. With some children presenting with multiple ticks over a season, this can quickly lead to an alarming amount of antibiotic usage. I think many physicians would welcome the opportunity to better target their treatment. A doctor, Rory O'Neal, was interviewed by a local news channel, ABC 27 and stated "It is something we could use here at All Better Care (his urgent care center) and in hospitals to quickly identify Lyme."
Presently, the CDC does not recommend routine testing of ticks to dictate treatment. However, one of the reasons they list against testing is that awaiting results may delay treatment and that symptoms would appear by the time laboratory testing was completed. This would not seem to be so with the new test. The two other reasons listed do remain valid, a false test for borrelia burgdorferi bacteria does not mean the person has not contracted Lyme from another un-witnessed tick bite; and a positive test of the tick does not necessary mean Lyme disease in the human host. So careful monitoring for symptoms remains the primary means of identification of Lyme infection.
I appreciate that Lymenator has not claimed to be end-all be-all in Lyme disease detection. The creator of Lymenator, Sherry Bender, acknowledges this stating, "It (Lymenator) is an early warning system, to let people know they have been exposed to the bacteria." However, it is a new tool in the arsenal. Lymenator is available to the public via Amazon, and I believe it will be in demand by the parents at my camp, who are hyper-vigilant and always extremely concerned about Lyme.
I hope this post has brought this exciting new product to your attention so you can investigate it further, and be prepared for questions about it from camp parents and management. I highly recommend you contact Lymenator with any questions you may have, I found them to be agreeable and very forthcoming with information.