New test can diagnose Lyme disease within 15 minutes

Posted at 11:50 AM, Oct 14, 2019

NEW YORK – Engineers at Columbia University have developed a new test that can diagnose patients with Lyme disease within 15 minutes.

Around 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease in the U.S. each year. It’s caused by bacteria transmitted by the bite of infected ticks and if left untreated, it can cause serious neurologic, cardiac, and/or rheumatologic complications.

Columbia says its new rapid microfluidic test can detect the disease “with similar performance” as the standard 2-tiered approach (STT), which is currently used to test people. The STT involves running two complex assays to detect antibodies against the bacterium. It requires experienced personnel in a lab and a few hours to carry out and interpret.

Columbia says its findings are the first to demonstrate that Lyme disease diagnosis can be carried out in a microfluidic format that can provide rapid quantitative results.

“This means that our test could easily be used directly in a doctor’s office, obviating having to send the samples out to a laboratory that needs at least a couple of hours, if not days, to get test results,” said Sam Sia, a biomedical engineer professor who led the team of researchers.

Siddarth Arumugam, a PhD student and one of the study’s lead authors, says the new test will require more refinement and testing before it can be approved for widespread use as a test for Lyme disease, but the results are exciting.

“It will help so many people if we can develop a single, rapid, multiplexed diagnostic test to identify Lyme disease stage that can be used in doctors’ offices,” said Arumugam.

Sia and other researchers are planning a more thorough clinical validation study to see whether the performance of the Lyme microfluidic platform holds up.

Click here for additional details over how researchers developed the test.