Magazine article Science News

New Test Homes in on Evasive Lyme Disease

Magazine article Science News

New Test Homes in on Evasive Lyme Disease

Article excerpt

New test homes in on evasive Lyme disease

A powerful laboratory technique frequently used in basic research reliably identifies trace amounts of DNA from the spiral-shaped microorganism that causes Lyme disease, according to government scientists. The finding should help researchers develop a diagnostic test for this elusive disorder, and may help unlock the mechanism underlying the disease.

Lyme disease gets its name from the Connecticut town where researchers first investigated a cluster of adults and children who suffered periodic bouts of flu, arthritis and neurological problems. Physicians now recognize these as classic symptoms of Lyme disease, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria (SN: 3/25/89, p.184). Yet doctors still have trouble confirming the diagnosis. At present they must rely on blood tests to detect antibodies to B. burgdorferi -- an unreliable method because some infected people display few, if any, such antibodies.

Patricia A. Rosa and Tom G. Schwan of Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Mont. (part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) used a technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to develop a test so sensitive that it can detect B. burgdorferi DNA in a sample containing as few as five spirochetes. That sensitivity is important because many Lyme patients have very few spirochetes in their blood or tissues.

The team first identified a target DNA sequence present in B. burgdorferi and then devised two DNA segments that home in on and bind with the target DNA. Adding the enzyme polymerase, which copies the original DNA target, prompts a chain reaction that generates millions of copies of the target, revealing the presence of spirochetes even in samples containing trace amounts of genetic material. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.