How Long Do Lyme Disease Antibodies Stay In Your System?
When a person becomes infected with Lyme disease, it can be very difficult to cure. Typically, an antibiotics course is taken to rid the body of the Lyme disease pathogen that was contracted, but if the bacteria manages to spread throughout the body prior to treatment, it can lead to serious health complications.
People who suffer from chronic Lyme disease often experience symptoms for months or even years following the onset of the infection because it can leave lasting damage within the nervous system and other organs throughout the body. But how long do Lyme disease antibodies stay in your system? Is it forever, or is there an average shelf life?
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a chronic illness caused when an infected tick bites someone and spreads the Borrelia bacteria through the bloodstream. During the first stages of Lyme disease (acute), the person suffering can experience a bullseye rash at the site of the bite, as well as fatigue, headache and other flu-like symptoms.
When Lyme disease is left untreated, it can progress to a chronic illness. Symptoms of chronic Lyme disease include muscle and joint pain; neurological deficiencies such as problems with memory, concentration, and speech; and chronic fatigue. The only way to treat Lyme disease at either the acute or chronic stages is through the administration of antibiotics.
What are Lyme disease antibodies?
Antibodies are specific proteins made in the body when an immune response takes place. They are designed to help fight off infection by attaching themselves to the bacteria (or other foreign substance), which helps immune cells target and attack the bacteria. They are essentially the body’s first line of defence.
The test designed to get to the bottom of symptoms and either rule out or confirm Lyme disease is called an antibody test. Lyme disease antibodies can be detected using two different tests. The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test is designed to help find the antibodies quickly. The Western blot test is used to confirm ELISA testing or diagnose a chronic case of untreated Lyme disease. The tests are generally done by checking a patient’s blood for certain antigens that form to help fight the antibodies designed to kill Lyme disease bacteria.
How long do Lyme disease antibodies stay in your system?
The bacteria that causes Lyme disease can stay in the body for years, even remaining dormant for a time if it’s threatened by treatment. The antibodies produced due to a Lyme disease infection are often undetectable for up to a period of two months following the infection.
After that, the antibodies designed to help combat the disease can remain in the system for years following the initial infection. This makes it hard to determine the timeline of infection; often, the diagnosis will be entirely dependent on the patient’s symptoms.
Can you test positive for Lyme years later?
As previously mentioned, Lyme disease antibodies can stay in the body for years following infection. Because of this, it’s possible to be diagnosed with Lyme disease long after the initial infection has occurred. The symptoms of early Lyme disease often mimic the common flu, and the symptoms of chronic Lyme disease can also imitate other diseases – so it can be difficult to come to the conclusion that Lyme disease is the culprit.
The ELIspot test is used to diagnose Lyme disease, but has also been used in other testing such as cancer and vaccine testing. When it comes to Lyme disease, the ELIspot test came back with a 75% accuracy rate, leaving the final 25% with false negatives. In cases of chronic Lyme disease, the ELIspot test fails because there could be only a very small amount of the original bacteria in the blood, leading to an improper diagnosis.
A new test supported by BCA-clinic, called the LymeSpot test, was developed to help increase the accuracy by giving doctors the ability to test for both the immune response and inflammation that often comes with Lyme disease. The LymeSpot test works by testing for two T-cells: the attacker and the blueprint cell. This ability to collect more data in the test has led to a far better accuracy for Lyme disease diagnosis than past tests have been able to provide.
Can late-stage Lyme disease be cured?
While there is no cure for Lyme disease, a treatment of strong antibiotics and a healthy lifestyle following infection can help combat chronic symptoms that tend to stick around for years following the infection. In cases where treatment isn’t received, Lyme disease can cause lasting nerve damage and can be very hard to fight against.
Eating a diet rich in whole foods, avoiding reinfection by avoiding areas with ticks, and encouraging healthy function of the body can all help combat the debilitating symptoms that can accompany late-stage Lyme disease.