Researchers call on tick-bite victims to help

Research is being done locally to better diagnose Lyme disease, often caught by tick bites. The researchers are asking anyone who has a circular rash after being bitten to volunteer to have blood drawn.

Participants will be treated for Lyme free of charge.

This year, over 100,000 New Yorkers will be infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease as a result of a tick bite, according to a release from the Lyme Action Network. While Lyme disease can cause a broad range of symptoms, the one indisputable indicator of early infection is a distinctive circular rash, called an erythema migrans.

This rash, however, only occurs in a fraction of the people who become infected with Lyme disease. For the people who do not get a rash, there is no reliable early diagnostic laboratory test to indicate whether an infection is present.

Numerous research studies have shown that, if Lyme disease is recognized and treated within the first few weeks, treatment is successful 80 to 90 percent of the time, making the development of an accurate diagnostic test for early Lyme disease a research priority, the release said.

A unique research project being conducted in the Capital Region is addressing this need with a call for people to be on the lookout for tick bites and circular skin rashes. Individuals who develop a “bulls-eye” or solid reddish or red-blue circular erythema migrans skin rash over two inches in diameter are invited to donate their blood to help advance research into this complex disease, specifically helping to develop an accurate early diagnostic test.

“There is an urgent need for accurate diagnostic tests for all stages of Lyme disease, but particularly for early infection when the likelihood of treatment success is highest,” said Professor Holly Ahern, State University of New York microbiologist, vice president of the Lyme Action Network, and science advisor to Focus on Lyme, the national foundation underwriting the research.

“We urge people who develop a rash typical of Early Lyme disease to donate blood, which will be used to validate the new diagnostic test now in development,” Ahern said in the release.

According to an article published in the scientific journal BMC Infectious Diseases, a research team at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine found that, for many community physicians practicing in high-risk geographic areas, the diagnosis of Lyme disease at an early stage remains a challenge.

“Failure to recognize erythema migrans (rashes) can lead to missed or delayed diagnosis of Lyme disease, ineffective antibiotic treatment, and the potential for late manifestations,” reported the study authors.

For this project, Focus on Lyme is working with the Stram Center for Integrative Medicine in Delmar. To participate in the study, participants must be between 18 and 65 years old and not already in treatment for Lyme disease. The rash must be visible on your body at the time of the medical evaluation and you must be willing to donate blood for the purposes of research.

If you spot a skin rash that looks like a bulls-eye or a red circle of more than two inches, call the Stram Center for an appointment. The rash will be evaluated by a health-care provider and if it meets the criteria for Lyme disease diagnosis you will be enrolled in the study to have your blood drawn. Enrollment in the study includes treatment for early Lyme disease, at no cost to participants. The research study is expected to last through June.

“It is important to note that not all tick-bites result in an infection and disease.  Conversely, people who acquire the Lyme bacteria or another tick-borne disease may or may not develop any rash. It can be very confusing,” said Ahern in the release. “For other symptoms or circumstances, we recommend you check the Lyme Action Network’s informational website (LymeActionNetwork.org) and consult with a provider who is well versed in Lyme disease.”

To make an appointment for an evaluation, call the Stram Center at 518-689-2244 or use the “Contact Us” form at www.stramcenter.com.  Mention that you are interested in the Lyme Rash Study and your call will be returned.

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