Lyme Testing Brought In-House at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is pleased to announce the hospital’s lab is now performing Lyme disease testing and providing results on site. The hospital recently acquired a new instrument, the Biomerieux MiniVIDAS analyzer. Using the latest validated technology, the Biomerieux is accurate and sensitive enough to reliably detect the total amount of Lyme IgG and IgM antibodies. Previously, the hospital sent all Lyme samples to an off-island reference lab, Imugen in Norwood, Massachusetts.

Since starting in October 2011, the hospital’s lab director Lena Prisco, PhD., has been focused on expanding the lab’s test array to better serve Islanders and the physicians who care for them. For both patients and doctors, this means results can be available in as little as 40 minutes and treatment can begin right away if needed. Before, turnaround could be up to 2 days because the samples were sent off-island. The hospital laboratory will send all positive results out to the reference lab for additional higher-level Lyme titer testing.

According to the Lyme disease Home Page at the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. The diagnosis of Lyme disease is based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks. Laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods. Most cases of Lyme disease can be successfully treated with a few weeks of antibiotics.

Ticks must be attached for 36-48 hours before the bacteria can be transmitted. Symptoms may begin anywhere from 3-30 days post tick bite and may include:

  • Red, expanding rash (bulls-eye)
  • Fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes

Some people may get these general symptoms in addition to a rash, but in others, these general symptoms may be the only evidence of infection.

To reduce the likelihood of a tick bite:

1. Wear protective clothing
2. Use insect repellent
3. Perform daily tick checks
4. Use caution in tick habitats

For more information about our laboratory services click here

For more information about tick-borne illnesses (English & Portuguese) click here.

For more information about Lyme disease, go to the CDC’s website click here.