George Mason University researchers can find out if a tick bite means Lyme disease well before the bite victim begins to show symptoms.
"If you are bit by a tick, you can't be sure if you will get Lyme disease ― that is the biggest problem right now," says Alessandra Luchini, research assistant professor for Mason's Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine (CAPMM).
The culprit is the blacklegged tick. It can carry the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which leads to Lyme disease. To make matters worse, nymphs ― about the size of the period at the end of this sentence ― can bite unnoticed until the standard first sign of Lyme disease, a bull's-eye rash, appears.
"The bacterium doesn't directly cause the damage," Liotta says. "It's the immune response that's doing the damage. The goal is to have a way to detect Lyme disease even before you make antibodies against it. Then you could treat the patient with antibiotics and they wouldn't get all those terrible symptoms
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