Thousands of Lyme disease tests unproven and possibly inaccurate, NECIR reports

BY Colleen Shalby  June 18, 2014 at 2:17 PM EST
Black legged ticks can be carriers of Lyme disease, transmittable when they bite a host. Photo by Flickr user Lennart Tange

Black legged ticks can be carriers of Lyme disease, transmittable when they bite a host. Photo by Flickr user Lennart Tange

Roughly $492 million is spent on more than 3.4 million Lyme tests in the U.S. each year. But according to the New England Center of Investigative Reporting in a report released Tuesday, that number doesn’t include the thousands of unproven and unregulated tests.

NECIR’s Beth Daley reports that “federally recommended tests identify about 300,000 new cases of Lyme each year in the United States,” but thousands of people are diagnosed with the disease by alternative and unproven tests “that may be inaccurate, leading to unnecessary, inappropriate and costly treatment.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned doctors and the public from using tests that haven’t been vouched by the federal agency.

But the CDC-recommended test isn’t completely ironclad either as it doesn’t always detect signs of the disease in its early stages. However, as the disease progresses, the test’s accuracy improves.

It might be unclear which tests to trust when it comes to Lyme disease testing, but as NECIR reports, the more people know about how the disease affects the body, the more accurate testing will become.

To see if a tick in your area carries Lyme disease, you can send your photos to NECIR.