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Drexel Lyme Disease Diagnostic Gets a Boost from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

November 21, 2022

Nearly half a million people become infected with Lyme disease in the United States each year — a number expected to grow as climate change expands the range of the ticks that carry it. But despite its status as the country’s most common vector-borne disease, there is still no reliable way to detect the infection in its early stages — when treatment is most effective.

A team of researchers from Drexel University has proposed a way to detect the bacterial infection by looking for a unique indicator that occurs before the immune system is able to launch a specific response. The group’s method recently received a boost from a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Steve & Alexandra Cohen Foundation initiative to finally find an effective test for the disease.

The challenge of detecting Lyme disease lies in the evasiveness of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which quickly moves into surrounding tissue once it enters the bloodstream, becoming virtually undetectable. Even the best tests are missing the early stages of infection about half the time, which means doctors are usually left to make a diagnosis based on symptoms and without confirmatory test results.

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