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New laboratory guidelines for serologic diagnosis of Lyme disease: evaluation of the two-test protocol.

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Recent guidelines established by the Association of State and Territorial Public Health Laboratory Directors (ASTPHLD) and the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the use of a two-test protocol for the serologic diagnosis of
Lyme disease (LD). The two-test protocol relies on a sensitive screening test, which is followed by specific immunoglobulin M (IgM) and/or IgG immunoblotting (IB), depending on the date of
disease onset, of all samples with equivocal and positive screening test results. We evaluated a commercially available IgM-IgG enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and separate IB tests for IgM and IgG antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi as candidate assays for the two-test protocol. Serum samples obtained from healthy controls (n = 29), from patients with diagnoses or laboratory findings associated with serologic cross-reactivity to LD (n = 24), and from patients with well-documented early- and late-stage LD provided by the CDC and the College of American Pathologists (n = 53) were examined to determine each assay’s individual sensitivity and specificity. No false-positive results were detected among the healthy controls by either ELISA or IB, whereas four false-positive ELISA results were recorded within the cross-reactive group. None of these sera, however, were positive for either IgM or IgG reactivity according to IB band criteria. With regard to the patients with LD, we determined the sensitivity and specificity of the ELISA to be 96 and 100%, respectively, compared with the reference data provided for these specimens. When we compared our IB results with data from CDC, the assay sensitivity and specificity were 80 and 96.2%, respectively, for IgM and 81.8 and 95.8%, respectively, for IgG. Pursuant to this evaluation we assessed the suitability of the two-test protocol by performing a retrospective analysis using clinical history to define samples as positive or negative for LD. We determined clinical sensitivity and specificity for all study subjects (n = 112) to be 50 and 100%, respectively. A reduction in the clinical sensitivity of the two-test protocol was associated with a lack of antibody response or seroconversion in LD patients treated with antibiotics. We conclude that the CDC-ASTPHLD guidelines provide useful criteria for test performance and interpretation aimed at standardizing the serologic diagnosis of LD.

J Clin Microbiol. 1996 Oct;34(10):2343-50.

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