Lyme disease is a highly common health issue in the US. People can get it from being bitten by blacklegged ticks because they inject the bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi which can have serious effects on humans. Many will experience symptoms such as fatigue, fever, headache and rashes. This requires immediate treatment. If ignored, the infection will worsen by spreading across the body. The heart, joints and nervous system will all suffer. The problem is that other diseases have similar symptoms and testing does not always yield reliable results. In this article, we discuss how Lyme disease and mold exposure connect to create false positive diagnoses.
Getting a diagnosis. It can be hard to get a proper diagnosis because not all doctors are familiar with Lyme disease. Finding a doctor that frequently treats Lyme, such as myself, improves your chances of knowing what is really going on in your body. That physician can recommend the best available testing methods and interpret the results correctly because they know what other types of information can be helpful thanks to their experience in evaluating and treating the disease among their patients. This should be done as quickly as possible because the lab results for long-term Lyme disease is not as accurate. The body may stop producing antibodies after a while.
The two-step test. The Center for Disease Control recommends a two-step test which much both turn out positive before Lyme disease can be confirmed. If a person has a negative result in either of these tests, then Lyme can be ruled out and other causes may be explored. The first test is called ELISA which is an acronym for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The next step is the Western Blot Test. These are just two ways to check for antibodies that can confirm the presence of the B. burgdorferi bacteria in the blood. If only one of these is performed, then the risk of having a false positive is high.
Why direct testing is not advisable. You might wonder why the tests are looking for antibodies instead of the bacteria itself. Other diseases, including COVID-19, can be found through direct testing using the PCR test or polymerase chain reaction. The answer is that direct tests are difficult for Lyme because the bacteria can hide to protect itself from antibiotics. If the test is conducted while they are in hiding, then false negatives are likely. It’s fortunate that the bacteria has no control over the production of antibodies. These are easier to search for in infected persons.
The ELISA Test and Western Blot Test. This is the standard testing protocol. This is good for short-term diagnosis using antibodies as targets. The body produces antibodies to fight infection. Different pathogens like viruses and bacteria result in different antibodies. Their presence indicates that the person’s immune system is fighting the B. burgdorferi bacteria. A negative result is deemed to be conclusive that Lyme disease is out of the question. No further tests are necessary. If positive, then confirmatory test is required. The Western Blot Test is an immunoblot test that also looks for antibodies.
Why false positives occur. There are many reasons why false positive results come out of these tests. Usually, the culprit is the presence of another infection. If your body is currently fighting mold infection, then you might get a positive test even if you don’t have Lyme disease. Physicians should explore other possible causes to prevent wrong diagnoses by asking about possible mold exposure and other issues that are commonly associated with false positives. Mold infections are particularly problematic since the symptoms are like what you would find with Lyme.
There are even cases wherein the patient has no symptoms at all and yet the tests turn out positive. There are two possible explanations. The first is that the bacteria is present in the body but the immune system is so strong that it is not affecting the person. The second is that it is a false positive in which another type of infection is causing the problem. New tests may be needed to pinpoint the exact issue. After all, symptoms might emerge later and make life harder for the individual. Early intervention will lead to better outcomes.
Mold infection can be assessed using a culture of suspected areas. DNA probes and standard growth techniques are utilized. The toxicity in the body can be analyzed using urine, blood, hair, or saliva samples. Longer exposure in a problematic environment increases the chances of inhaling the spores. Known symptoms include fatigue, headaches, joint pain and chronic cough. Consulting a physician familiar with mold illness, Lyme, and the conflicts between them can help you ensure proper diagnosis and treatment. With my years of experience with the matter, my staff and I have been able to help many find their way to better health despite these difficulties.
Dr. Alfred Johnson, D.O. is a physician practicing in Richardson, specializing in internal medicine, environmental medicine and chronic disease. For more information, visit johnsonmedicalassociates.com.