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Diagnosis of Lyme Disease Through Assessment of Protein Glycosylation

Project Team

Mary Ann Comunale, EdD (PI) Microbiology and Immunology, Drexel University College of Medicine

Alison Cary MD. Department of Pediatrics, Drexel University College of Medicine

Joris Beld, PhD Microbiology & Immunology, Drexel University College of Medicine

Benjamin Haslund-Gourley MD/PhD candidate (Microbiology and Immunology, Drexel University College of Medicine)

Kevin Owens, PhD Chemistry, Drexel University

Anand Mehta, D.Phil. Medical University of South Carolina


Lyme disease (LD) is the most common vector-borne disease in North America and Europe. An estimated 476,000 people get LD in the U.S. each year. LD test accuracy is so poor, diagnosis often remains a clinical one. Untreated LD has serious health consequences affecting the skin, joints, nervous system, and/or heart. Direct detection of the bacteria in patient blood is difficult because the pathogen quickly disseminates into surrounding tissues. Thus, diagnostics rely on indirect measures of the patient's immune response. Testing is problematic due to low sensitivity and high false positive rates due to mimic diseases and antigen cross-reactivity. Identification of subsequent infections is hindered by the previous seroconversion during primary LD infection. Our team is taking a new approach to develop a LD diagnostic that is based on the dynamic glycosylation status of circulating immune proteins. Our lab has identified glycoprotein signatures that indicate an active LD infection and differentiate LD from other inflammatory diseases. Importantly, the diagnostic will indicate reinfection and has the potential to track disease resolution following antibiotic therapy. This proposed research will conduct a powered study to confirm our preliminary results and test the diagnostic in the CDC pre-market blinded Lyme disease study cohort.