Lyme researchers seek people with rash

The blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick, is surviving at higher elevations in the High Peaks, bringing the Lyme disease it carries to the area. (Photo provided)

A Capital Region study is aiming at the creation of an accurate test for Lyme disease, but it needs volunteers.

The organization, Focus on Lyme, is partnering with the Stram Center for Integrative Medicine out of Delmar for the study. They’re looking to collect blood samples from people who have been bitten by a tick and developed the bull’s-eye or red-raised rash associated with the disease.

Many people who are infected don’t get the rash, delaying a crucial window of time when antibiotics are most effective.

“At this moment in time, the only truly clinically accurate way possible to diagnose (Lyme) is if they develop that bull’s-eye rash because the lab tests are so bad,” said Holly Ahern, a microbiologist and science advisor for Focus on Lyme, in a phone interview. “To validate any kind of diagnostic test, the only true standard that exists is those people who develop the rash. So this (study) is for a validation of the diagnostic test.”

Volunteers who have the rash and wish to help with the study must be between the ages of 18 and 65 and not already taking Lyme disease treatments.

The rash must be a bull’s-eye or red circle of more than 2 inches. The rash will be evaluated by a health care provider at the Stram Center before a person is officially enrolled in the study. Participation is free, and will last through June.

To make an appointment, contact the Stram Center at 518-689-2244 or use the “contact us” form at stramcenter.com and mention “Lyme rash study.”

Participants also have the option of getting Lyme disease treatment at no cost, and getting follow-up visits, Ahern said.

Chris Fisk, president of the Lyme Action Network, said in an email that a study like this is not being done elsewhere.

“The Capital Region and surrounding areas have the opportunity to make a difference on an international scale by contributing to this chapter of the research that will, hopefully, validate a brand new diagnostic test for early Lyme (fingers crossed!),” Fisk continued.

Ahern said the next steps are to present the diagnostic test to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

This is the time of year when nymph ticks are particularly prevalent, Ahern added. They are the kind of ticks that carry the bacteria that causes the Lyme disease rash.

Lately, Ahern has been getting adult female ticks sent to her lab, which when they bite do not cause a rash. The females are particularly “ravenous” she added, because they’re mating and laying eggs.

Learn ways to protect yourself from being bit by going online to health.ny.gov/publications/2825.

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