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Lyme Disease Test Years Later

Written by Dr. Diane Mueller

Has it been some years since you have contracted Lyme Disease? Testing is still useful but can be tricky. Borrelia (bacteria that causes Lyme). Studies have shown that Borrelia produces molecules called adhesins. Production of adhesins allows Borrelia to enter the host cells and prevent immune system reactivity more easily. In addition, binding proteins that Borrelia creates (DbpA and DbpB) also contribute to the ease through which Borrelia invades organs and other tissues.

Another potential problem is that Borrelia also has the ability to stop the reaction of our complement system. Complement is a key part of our immune system and Borrelia’s ability to shut this down contributes to its impressive ability to live for many years.

Lyme Disease Test Years Later

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How Does This Relate to Lyme Disease Test Years Later?

 The reason the discussion on the burrowing of Borrelia is so important is that the longer you have had Lyme Disease, the more difficult it may be to obtain a positive result on the lab work. In addition to this, the ability to Borrelia to suppress immune responses adds to complexity because many of the Lyme tests on the market our looking at our immune system’s response to Borrelia invasion. If the immune system has been suppressed due to having long term Lyme disease, these test may read falsely negative. You can read more about the tests available for Lyme on our page Lyme Disease Test.

Studies have shown that Borrelia loves to invade the lymphatic system and disseminates to other tissues in part via our lymphatic system. This can lead to lymphatic enlargement (swollen glands). This is unfortunate as far as symptom picture is concerned because as Borrelia spreads throughout the body its effect on a wide variety of organs and tissue grows. However, the benefit of understanding of this lymphatic component is connected to being able to find a positive on a test many years after Borrelia infection is contracted.

Keep in mind at our medical clinic that most of the people we find positive for Lyme Disease testing do not even remember getting a tick bite.

We can do lymphatic massage (certain massage therapists are trained in this or you can find videos online about how to do this yourself) to begin to mobilize Borrelia. If we do this the morning of a test for Lyme Disease, it can aid in preventing false negatives due to the ability to circulate Borrelia into the blood stream for the test. Exercise moves the lymph and may be able to produce similar results.

The other thing to make sure to understand is that not all Lyme Disease testing is the same. Therefore, make sure you read the previous mentioned blog to be able to properly understand the difference between testing available.

Another component of understanding Lyme disease test years later is the difference   between the immune cells IgG and IgM. In most infectious diseases, the immune system produces a predominant of the antibody known as an IgM. As the disease progresses (usually  after about 3 weeks), there
is a shift in the number of IgMs (they decrease) and the number of the antibody known as IgG (it increases).


This is how we know that IgMs are typically associated with acute infection and IgGs are more associated with pastinfection (and cellular memory of that infection). With Borrelia, this shift in the IgM numbers and the IgG numbers does not seem to change with the length of time. Therefore, there is not a clear metric in lab testing to be able to truly delineate from an acute versus a past infection.Because of this reason,symptom picture is largely  what needs to be evaluated for in order to determine the activity of Borrelia and need for treatment.[1]


Further problems of long term Lyme disease and the immune system are connected to Borrelia’s ability to activate our HLA DR systems which are connected to proper ability of the human organism to recognize self from not self. When this ability is dysregulated though a Borrelia infection, the ability to recognize self becomes diminished and our immune system may begin to attack our own cells, which is the basic definition of autoimmune disease. This is why many times with late stage Lyme Disease, people obtain an autoimmune diagnosis and think that they have the “answers” when in fact the autoimmune disease that they have was actually triggered by an immune dysfunction due to Lyme Disease.


What does this means for Lyme Disease Test Years Later?


Do not give up hope! The body has an amazing ability to heal. There is still the ability to run lab tests and get answers. What is especially important however is that you are working with a Lyme Literate doctor. A Lyme literate doctor will understand all the complexities about lab testing that are spoken of on our site. They will know how to interpret tests and how to use a combination of your history, your symptom picture and lab testing to determine if you have Lyme Disease. And remember, while this sort of diagnosis can be scary, there is hope for disease reversal. Finding answers is the first step to getting you your life back!


[1] Tracy KE, Baumgarth N. Borrelia burgdorferi Manipulates Innate and Adaptive Immunity to Establish Persistence in Rodent Reservoir Hosts. Front Immunol. 2017 Feb 20;8:116. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00116. PMID: 28265270; PMCID: PMC5316537.

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