Lyme disease round-up – January 2022

Posted: 21st January 2022

At Biocentaur, we stay at the cutting edge of new development in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease. Our range of genetic tests is helping patients receive a fast and accurate diagnosis, enabling treatment to begin as soon as possible. 

You can learn more about our range of Lyme disease tests here.

Here are four Lyme disease stories that have caught the eye of the Biocentaur team this month.

Lower socioeconomic status linked to disseminated Lyme disease

Lower socioeconomic status and less health care access could be linked with disseminated stage Lyme disease – where the infection has spread beyond the initial bite location – say scientists in a new paper published in BMC Infectious Diseases. 

Little is known about the risk factors for early Lyme disease, such as “arthritis, neurological complications, and carditis,” state the researchers. The team set out to explore whether “individual, community-level, and health care factors were associated with disseminated stage Lyme disease”.

The research team examined the diagnoses and case notes of 7,310 Lyme disease patients. They found that “lower socioeconomic status and less health care access could be linked with disseminated stage Lyme disease.” 

One of the explanations may be that those without healthcare insurance in the USA don’t seek a diagnosis for their condition before it worsens. “Delayed diagnosis, which makes disseminated infection more likely, is also a risk factor for post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome,” say the authors. 

You can read the full paper, Risk factors for Lyme disease stage and manifestation using electronic health records, here.

Doctors frequently miss Lyme disease co-infections, cautions experts

Lyme disease cases are on the rise across the UK and Europe, cautions Wendy Adams, Research Grant Director & Advisory Board Member, Bay Area Lyme Foundation. As well as Lyme disease, “ticks can unfortunately transmit several other bacteria, viruses, and parasites to humans,” she warns, including the highly damaging Babesia duncani

The “confusing and overlapping” symptoms of such conditions make diagnosing Lyme disease a challenge, even for experienced clinicians, she says. Adams states that doctors should suspect additional tick-borne infections, but many do not.

“Prompt and complete diagnosis of patients with tick-borne infections—bacteria, viruses and parasites, is paramount to giving patients the best chance at full recovery,” says Adams. 

You can read her article, Lyme with a side—or two—of babesia: the most common co-infection that is frequently missed, here

Advanced computer tool 92% accurate at identifying ticks

Scientists have built a computer tool to identify Lyme disease-carrying ticks with an incredible 92% accuracy. “Understanding where black-legged ticks and B. burgdorferi co-occur is vital,” say researchers, but surveillance is “patchy” or non-existent. 

The research team has developed a new tool that uses machine learning techniques to identify black-legged ticks with incredible accuracy. The team used over 12,000 images of black-legged ticks captured from camera phones to train the tool. The team also developed a web application which they shared with laboratory technicians at Public Health Ontario to validate the model further.

In tests, the model demonstrated incredible accuracy, identifying 92% of black-legged ticks, say the researchers. “Our tool simplifies tick identification, in contrast to time-consuming and labor-intensive laboratory approaches for tick identification,” they say. The researchers hope to develop a smartphone app to “help healthcare and public health officials monitor the geographic emergence and establishment of blacklegged ticks.”

You can read the full paper, A Computer Vision Approach to Identifying Ticks related to Lyme Disease, here.

Assessing the impact of COVID-19 on Lyme disease infections

The number of Lyme disease cases in Poland dropped dramatically in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the healthcare system. Are there genuinely fewer Lyme disease infections, or has diagnosis decreased?

“In December, about 8,000 fewer cases of Lyme disease were registered than in previous years,” say the researchers. The lockdown in Poland lasted only six weeks, but the impact is still being felt. “It is likely that many patients have decreased access to outpatient visits and one-on-one clinical advice, and in some cases, there may be a shortage of medicines,” say researchers.

If cases continued along a similar trajectory to previous years, the impact on patient outcomes could be severe. “The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the number of cases recorded, which could have catastrophic consequences for people who did not receive treatment in the right time,” say the researchers.

You can read the full paper, The Impact of a Pandemic COVID-19 on the Incidence of Borreliosis in Poland, here.

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