The Lyme Test Dilemma:

Problem # 1: Lyme blood tests in the United States are only 46% accurate on average, and they do not work well for people who have been recently bitten by a tick and infected with Lyme, because these tests measure antibody response and it takes a while for the body to create antibodies to Lyme.

Problem #2: If you wait weeks or months to take a Lyme test, during that time the Lyme bacteria can spread throughout your body, making the disease much harder to treat and increasing the possibility that you will have long term illness.

Problem #3: Many people are having symptoms that they can’t explain, but they don’t remember ever having a tick bite. Many people with Lyme never find a tick, and never remember being bitten. For reasons that are poorly understood, many Lyme literate physicians now believe that some people can be infected with Lyme and be asymptomatic for a period of time, even years. They believe that Lyme can arise at a later point in time, perhaps triggered by life stress, illness or an injury. Individuals who have had Lyme for a long time may not test positive on standard antibody tests available in the United States, because Lyme has poorly understood effects on the immune system which may interfere with antibody production.

Alternative Approaches to Testing:

Given the inaccuracy of current testing methods, Lyme literate physicians and Lyme advocacy groups around the world are recommending various approaches for Lyme patients seeking help in both the “recently bitten” and “long-term illness” scenarios.

1) Many people who have received tick bites are immediately taking a course of antibiotics preventatively, without waiting weeks to take and get results from standard Lyme testing. The dose they are typically taking is 200 milligrams of Doxycycline, twice a day, for a period of 3-6 weeks. People who are just bitten but not symptomatic tend to do a 3-4 week course of the drug. People recently bitten who do have symptoms such as fatigue, headache, a rash, muscle or joint pain or other Lyme symptoms, are taking antibiotics for a six week timeframe. If you have been bitten by a tick, Lyme Nation recommends that you contact a Lyme literate physician IMMEDIATELY to discuss your testing and treatment options.

2) Germany has a blood test called the LTT-Elispot that is 95% accurate. It measures lymphocyte response, which is the body’s first line of defense against infection. It can be used to diagnose Lyme, tick-borne co-infections, and other viral and bacterial co-infections. It also can be used to measure the effectiveness of treatment – in this case the test is typically used before treatment to get a baseline level and after treatment to measure the body’s response to that treatment. The test is available through ArminLabs, which is located near Munich. The lab can ship you a test kit via express mail within 24 hours, and provide results within 7-10 days. Readers from outside the United States can contact Armin Labs directly. Readers from the United States may contact Sue Vogan at or (717) 254-1953 to request a test kit which is shipped within 24 hours Monday– Thurs. If requested Friday, the kit will be shipped the following Monday. The cost for the Borrelia LTT-Elispot is $225, plus an additional $60 for shipping. 

2) For people who have had “mystery symptoms” for years with no diagnosis, a CD57 test, an inexpensive blood test which can be done by most local physicians, can help determine if you have had a long-term infection. CD57 measures a specific type of “killer cell” in the immune system. If someone has had Lyme for a period of time, the CD57 count typically drops. Some Lyme literate physicians are finding in their clinical practice that as they clear co-infections such as parasites, that CD57 counts will rise dramatically in a short period of time. So, it is not a direct answer to the question of whether a patient has Lyme, but it can be a helpful piece of information in assessing immune health and the possibility of a long-term infection.

3) Tick testing will tell you if a tick that was attached to you carries Lyme or other pathogens that could make you ill. It cannot prove whether you are actually infected with Lyme or co-infections. Tick test results take a couple of weeks to receive back. Your doctor may be able to help refer you to a lab for tick testing. You can also call your state’s health department for information on tick testing in your local area. If there are no local labs, listed below are two labs that offer tick testing – one on the East Coast of the United States, and one on the West Coast. One reason some people like to get ticks tested, is to help convince doctors and medical practitioners that they have Lyme. This is especially true for people who live in areas where Lyme is not considered to be a problem.

IGeneX, Inc.
797 San Antonio Road
Palo Alto, California 94303
Phone: (800) 832-3200

Fill out their Tick Test Request Form. This lab tests both live and dead ticks. Instructions on how to mail your tick(s), and information about what pathogens they test for and fees are on the form.
Laboratory of Medical Zoology
Fernald Hall, University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003

Fill out the form on their website.This lab offers a fairly speedy 3-5 day turnaround for tick testing, including Lyme and other tick-borne diseases such as Babesia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. They will provide test results via email.