Ticked off: cases of Lyme disease are on the in­crease in Ire­land

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - UPDATE -

LYME disease which is trans­mit­ted to hu­mans by bites from ticks in­fected with bac­te­ria is on the rise in Ire­land.

There were eight cases re­ported in 2012, but last year this had risen to 21. Lyme disease is di­ag­nosed by med­i­cal his­tory and phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion.

The in­fec­tion is con­firmed by blood tests which look for an­ti­bod­ies pro­duced by an in­fected per­son’s body in re­sponse to the in­fec­tion.

These nor­mally take sev­eral weeks to de­velop and may not be present in the early stages of the disease. The stan­dard Lyme disease di­ag­nos­tics is a two-stage ap­proach and in­volves us­ing a sen­si­tive en­zyme im­munoas­say (EIA) as an ini­tial screen­ing step.

Screen­ing EIAs can be in­suf­fi­ciently spe­cific, giv­ing false-pos­i­tive re­ac­tions in the pres­ence of other sim­i­lar bac­te­ria, and cer­tain other vi­ral in­fec­tions, in­clud­ing glan­du­lar fever. In ad­di­tion, blood sam­ples from pa­tients with au­toim­mune disor­ders and other in­flam­ma­tory con­di­tions can also lead to false-pos­i­tive re­sults. Sam­ples giv­ing pos­i­tive or equiv­o­cal re­sults in screen­ing tests are fur­ther in­ves­ti­gated in a sec­ond-stage im­munoblot tests.

Use of im­munoblot testing greatly in­creases speci­ficity. This two-stage ap­proach gives a great de­gree of cer­tainty around the di­ag­no­sis of Lyme disease. All clin­i­cal lab­o­ra­to­ries in Ire­land must un­dergo con­tin­u­ous qual­ity as­sur­ance to en­sure the qual­ity of the di­ag­nos­tics they pro­vide is main­tained.

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