Lyme disease overdiagnosis a chronic problem

Posted: 10th December 2021

84% of patients referred for Lyme disease treatment at a US facility had “no findings of active Lyme disease,” a new study has found. Instead, the majority of patients were suffering from alternative conditions that caused the symptoms. The study raises concerns over potential Lyme disease “overdiagnosis” and highlights the importance of better information and training for medical professionals and more accurate genetic testing for the condition.

Researchers have established that Lyme disease is frequently overdiagnosed, but few studies have ever explored precisely what other conditions patients may be experiencing. In a new article published in The American Journal of Medicine evaluated, researchers describe how they investigated the cases of over 1,000 patients referred for Lyme disease treatment to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who “lacked evidence for Borrelia burgdorferi infection.”

After investigating the notes, medically trained professionals established that of 1,261 patients referred, 1061 (84%) had “no findings of active Lyme disease. In addition, researchers found that over half (65%) of patients were diagnosed with new medical conditions that explained their symptoms. 

Patients misdiagnosed with Lyme disease were actually suffering from a range of conditions, including anxiety/depression (21%), fibromyalgia (11%), chronic fatigue syndrome 7%), migraine disorder (7%), and osteoarthritis (6%). The authors made a shocking discovery that “one-fifth of referred patients had symptoms explained by known pre-existing medical issues before referral.” 

But why is overdiagnosis such an issue? “Some practitioners and patients have adopted a liberal, non-evidence-based diagnosis of Lyme disease or other tick-borne infections to account for symptoms that prompt prolonged or combination antimicrobial therapy,” state the authors. The impact on patients can be stark, with some misdiagnosis of Lyme disease is responsible for “leading to poor outcomes or decreased quality of life.”

An incorrect diagnosis of Lyme disease isn’t just a clinical failure; it can create unnecessary stress and anxiety among patients searching for a cause for their symptoms. “In conclusion, the over-diagnosis of Lyme disease remains a significant public concern, especially for the subset of patients with long-term symptoms,” caution the authors. “Lyme disease has often become a common scapegoat for poorly understood problems.” 

The paper demonstrates that Lyme disease diagnosis can be challenging, particularly in patients suffering from a range of existing conditions. To support clinicians, at Biocentaur, we’ve developed a range of clinically validated genetic tests that provide objective evidence for Lyme disease infection, including the specific bacterial strain.

Our PrimeSpot test can detect the presence of Lyme Disease-associated species in a blood sample. Coupled with our PaldiSpot test, which tests for 23 of the most common strains of Borrelia, Babesia and Bartonella genospecies, clinicians can gain an accurate Lyme disease diagnosis. This is critical at ensuring rapid treatment or enabling clinicians to rule out Lyme disease and understand the cause of your symptoms.

You can read the full paper, Mistaken Identity: Many Diagnoses are Frequently Misattributed to Lyme Disease, here.

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