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A story about Lyme disease testing and the Western blot

Post Series: Lyme series

Why your Western blot may be falsely negative

As you can see in the picture on the right, the Western blot test looks for “bands” of Lyme disease antibodies that are produced by your body.  If certain bands show up, the test is positive.  Only certain bands matter because those are the ones that have been shown by research to be correlated with Lyme disease (and not as much with other infections).

After this test was developed, the CDC convened to figure out exactly what and how many  “bands” should be considered diagnostic for Lyme.  The entire list is here, but what’s noticeably missing from the CDC list are bands 31 and 34 kDa.  Researchers agree that bands 31 and 34 are VERY specific for Lyme, and many other labs, including Igenex, consider these bands when determining if a test is positive.  So why doesn’t the CDC pay attention to bands 31 and 34?

And here’s where it gets interesting

Around the time that the CDC was making its decision about the classifications, GSK was trying to develop a Lyme vaccine. The point of a vaccine is to develop antibodies to a certain part of the infection, and the GSK vaccine was, in fact, creating antibody responses in patients that would create a positive for bands 31 and 34 on the Western blot.  In other words, anyone who received the Lyme vaccine would have a positive Western blot if they included bands 31 and 34 in the official criteria.

So those bands were scrapped in order to avoid what they thought might be a bunch of false positives in recipients of the vaccine.  The problem is, so was the vaccine!  Very few people ever got it because of the side effects.  But the CDC never revised their criteria, despite plenty of science to the contrary.

This story is an example of why a conventional Western blot interpretation has a high rate of false negatives.

The sensitivity of a conventional Western blot test is somewhere in the high 40%.  If bands 31 and 34 are included along with other scientifically supported interpretations, the sensitivity of the Western blot can go up into the 90(%)’s.  This is a very big difference!

Click here for information about PCR testing for Lyme (link will be updated when the article is published)

Click here to learn how a blood test can help determine if Lyme is actually causing symptoms in your body.

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