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Lyme testing: PCR is looking for bug bits

Post Series: Lyme series

Let not be technical: PCR is looking for bits of the actual bug

Regardless of the underlying technology, the above statement is true.  PCR testing from specialty labs are looking for bits of DNA that can be matched to specific bugs.  It’s a highly specific, but not always sensitive test.

What does “specific but not sensitive” mean?

This category of testing means that a positive PCR test for Lyme or for a co-infection is hard to get.  But if you do get it, you can be very sure that the infection is inside you.  In other words, a positive result is very specific, but since many people with Lyme will have a negative PCR test, it’s not very sensitive.  Said yet another way, this test has lots of false negatives, but no false positives.

If there are false negatives, why order it?

This test isn’t usually ordered as a stand-alone.  For example, Igenex has it as part of panels that also include Western blot.  And sometimes with a Western blot, the result is, well…murky.  The patient is left with an “indeterminate” conclusion that can be frustrating.  Including a PCR test along with a Western blot can help push “indeterminate” into positive.  As long as the overall context is taken into account, the test can be valuable.

What about the lab DNA Connexions?

DNA Connexions is a lab that is trying to change the rate of false negatives for PCR microbiology testing. The difference between DNA Connexions and Igenex (at least as of this writing) is that DNA Connexions looks for bit of bug DNA in the urine, rather than the blood.  This lab contends that Borrelia and co-infection DNA seems to accumulate in the bladder and is therefore concentrated in the urine.  This concentration greatly reduces the number of false negatives, and since it’s still the same PCR DNA test, the high specificity remains.

One other great thing about this lab: they are focused on trying to create a more affordable Lyme testing option.  Therefore (again, as of this writing), they have a single Lyme test that tests everything they could think of. The panel has six different Borrelia strains and eight different co-infections, including all the ones you’ve heard of (erlichia, bartonella, babesia, etc).

Caveat, this panel is fairly new, so we don’t know exactly how specific or sensitive it is, but they are working hard to get us those numbers.  In the meantime, it’s worth asking your doctor about.

What if I want to know more about the infection?  Not just “is it there?”, but “Is it doing damage?”

For you (and for me), the Bioresonance blood test is the most valuable test.  After all, it not only can help you find out if your Lyme disease is active, it can also help you treat it in a way that is individually optimized.

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