Sensitivity of a point of care tick-test for the development of Lyme borreliosis
© Sprong et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2013
Received: 9 September 2013
Accepted: 30 November 2013
Published: 4 December 2013
A commercially available self-test for the detection of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in ticks was evaluated for its ability to predict erythema migrans formation.
The self-test was performed on 127 Ixodes ricinus from 122 humans that reported tick bites at enrolment and occurrence of symptoms during follow-up. The self-test gave negative results on all the 122 individuals, 14 of whom reported erythema migrans (EM) at follow-up of which 10 were confirmed by their GP. The estimated sensitivity of the self-test for prediction of EM formation is 0% (95% CI: 0%-28%).
This self-test is not suitable for reducing the number needed to treat in a post-exposure prophylaxis setting as it already missed all the obvious early Lyme borreliosis cases.
Lyme borreliosis is an emerging tick-borne disease, caused by spirochetes of the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato species complex[1, 2]. The most characteristic manifestation of early Lyme borreliosis is erythema migrans (EM), an expanding skin rash occurring after several days or weeks at the site of the tick bite. Late and more serious Lyme borreliosis can manifest itself as a multi-system disease with several skin, neurological, cardiac and musculoskeletal manifestations. Antibiotic treatment of EM commonly prevents the development of late and more severe disease stages. However, estimates indicate that around 25% of Lyme borreliosis patients do not detect or do not receive treatment for EM[5, 6]. Prevention of Lyme borreliosis is difficult as no absolute control measures are available as yet[7, 8]. Post-exposure prophylaxis after tick-attachment may be an effective way to reduce morbidity of Lyme borreliosis. In one randomized trial performed in the United States, prophylaxis was shown to prevent early Lyme borreliosis after a tick bite, with a number needed to treat (NNT) of 51. The NNT can be reduced if the ability of a test to predict the development of Lyme borreliosis is increased. Such a test could be based on Borrelia-infection and attachment time of the tick[10, 11]. It requires a high sensitivity to be able to treat all persons at risk for Lyme borreliosis, and moderate specificity to be able to reduce the NNT. A self-test for the detection of B. burgdorferi sensu lato in ticks, the Careplus Tick-Test (Tropicare, Almere, Netherlands), is commercially available in Europe. This Careplus Tick-Test is based on the detection of B. burgdorferi sensu lato antigens in tick lysates. We evaluated the ability of this test to predict EM formation.
Summary of epidemiological data from this study
● Self-reporting of EM between 0 and 3 months after reporting a tick bite
● Same as self-reported EM
EM treated with antibiotics
● No other tick bites reported besides those due to the tested ticks
● Self-reporting of GP prescribed antibiotic treatment for EM
● Same criteria as self-reported EM, treated with antibiotics
● Written GP-confirmation of the self-reported EM diagnosis
● No reporting of EM between t = 0 and t = 3 months after a tick bite
● Lost to follow-up after a tick bite
The Careplus Tick-test was performed on all 127 ticks of the 122 individuals according to the manufacturer’s protocol except for a minor modification: the wooden stick was replaced by a plastic pestle in order to improve the homogenization of the tick. For the five individuals with two ticks, three times the two ticks were tested with one test, and twice the two ticks were tested separately. The self-test yielded negative results, regardless of whether the ticks were obtained from persons without EM-formation (n = 45), with EM-formation (n = 14), with uncertain EM-formation (n = 11) and with unknown outcome (n = 52). The Careplus Tick-test became positive when about 5.105 spirochetes of a B. burgdorferi senso stricto culture (B31-strain) were applied on the membrane. Remnants of the tick lysates from the 14 persons with EM were subjected to DNA extraction and a duplex QPCR to test whether B. burgdorferi sensu lato was present. Borrelia DNA was detected in samples of 9 of the 14 self-reported EM-cases (64%) and 6 out of 10 (60%) of the GP-confirmed EM-cases, indicating the presence of B. burgdorferi sensu lato spirochetes in the ticks of at least 64% and 60% of these cases respectively: The DNA detection was performed under suboptimal conditions, as less than 5% of the tick lysate could be used, whereas normally the whole tick lysate is used. Using the same QPCR in other ticks enrolled through the national web-based survey, 20% (444 out of 2213) of the ticks from persons without EM-formation tested positive.
All ticks from the 122 individuals in this study tested negative in the Careplus Tick-test. Table 1 shows the sensitivity and specificity for the prediction of EM formation of the Careplus Tick-test. The sensitivity was estimated to be 0% (95% CI: 0-22%) based upon the ticks of 14 persons who had been bitten and self-reported formation of EM and subsequent GP-prescribed antibiotic treatment. If only the 10 GP-confirmed EMs were included, the sensitivity was also estimated at 0%, but with a higher 95% upper boundary (28%). The specificity was estimated to be 100% (95% CI: 92-100%), based upon the 45 individuals without EM. This self-test is not suitable for reducing the NNT in post-exposure prophylaxis as it missed all the obvious early Lyme borreliosis cases.
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