As spring turns into summer, the familiar debate about ticks begins again. At the same time, we may notice some controversy about diagnosing the diseases spread by ticks. The early diagnosis of both tick-borne encephalitis and borreliosis is still problematic, but tests are being developed with the aim of addressing these problems.
The most commonly known and widespread diseases spread by ticks are Lyme disease – also known as borreliosis – and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE). One clear difference between these diseases is that TBE is a viral infection, while borreliosis is a bacterial infection that can be treated with antibiotics. There is a vaccine against the TBE virus.
Although tick-borne infections have existed for as long as ticks, climate change is increasing the prevalence of the ticks that spread bacteria. In some endemic areas, there may even be talk of a tick epidemic.
There are still certain challenges in diagnosing the diseases spread by ticks. The antibody test used to diagnose Lyme disease provides reliable results about two weeks after infection, although the current tests do not provide 100% reliability, even after such a long wait.
In the worst cases, borreliosis can become chronic if it is not diagnosed early enough to allow the timely commencement of antibiotic treatment. In such cases, it is harder to identify the symptoms of the disease, and treatment periods can be very long. In the chronic form, borreliosis antibodies can be measured, although it is no longer possible to directly identify the pathogen.
Reagena provides a wide range of reliable tests for TBE and borreliosis
Reagena aims to respond to the current problems in diagnosing the diseases spread by ticks. It is our strategy to speed up treatment chains, so we are developing tests for diagnosing tick-borne diseases outside the laboratory.
Our product range includes central laboratory tools – also known as EIA tests – and rapid tests for the point-of-care diagnosis of the TBE virus and Lyme disease. Reagena’s rapid tests and laboratory tests are equally reliable.
The benefit of rapid tests is their speed: a diagnosis can be obtained without needing a laboratory, and it is based on the results of two antigens. Rapid testing is the key to addressing the central problem in the diagnostics of tick-borne diseases, which is that the diagnosis often comes too late.
Aiming for the earliest possible diagnosis of tick-borne diseases
In the future, exclusion tests will also be needed for the diagnosis of tick-borne diseases in order to rule out other bacteria that cause the same symptoms. If it is possible to test for more potentially overlapping pathogens, the test result will be more reliable, and an earlier diagnosis can be made.
It is also possible that these tests will follow the same trajectory as the development of rapid testing procedures for COVID-19: one day, home tests for Lyme disease may become a part of the diagnosis and the patient’s clinical pathway.
Naturally, a positive home test should always be verified by a health care provider. However, there is some way to go until home testing is possible. At this stage, we must focus on diagnosing tick-borne diseases at the earliest possible stage.