Every year, there are cases of people contracting the chronic Lyme disease. This disease, though spread by ticks, is capable of beings transmitted via blood transfusion too. The tests for this disease are unreliable and hence, it is difficult to ascertain. There is a growing concern among donors and blood banks alike, and the bacteria is capable of surviving blood storage temperatures and duration. Read on to know whether people with the Lyme disease must be included among people who can donate blood or not.
What is Lyme disease? What are its Symptoms?
Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, found in deer ticks. These ticks survive on human and animal blood and are responsible for spreading the bacteria. The bacteria enters the bloodstream and causes the chronic Lyme disease. The intensity of contraction increases in summer.
The Chronic Lyme disease has a variety of symptoms and generally impacts more than one system, and its signs are almost always noticed in the nervous system. The joints and skin are also influenced. In the early stage, the chronic Lyme disease is manifested in the form of flu and rashes. As it progresses, neurological issues may occur along with joint pains.
What is Chronic Lyme disease test?
Currently, no strong medical diagnostic tests are available for the chronic Lyme disease. The existing tests for this disease are pathetically unreliable. These tests will give multiple false negatives. The reason for this could be that there was insufficient time for antibodies to grow or the immune network may be affected. One may also not know what strain of the disease to test for.
What are the Chronic Lyme disease tests available currently?
The available tests check for antibodies that develop after the disease is contracted. However, it is best to wait for a few weeks after you start detecting symptoms for an accurate result. There are two tests.
Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test:
This is the most used test to detect the Chronic Lyme disease. There are instances when the test has given false-positives and hence is usually followed by another test called the Western Blot test. However, the rash caused by Chronic Lyme diseases is an evidence enough because of its distinct form. Most doctors on examining the rash will diagnose the patient with Chronic Lyme disease, especially in areas where the ticks are known to exist.
Western blot test
The ELISA test is followed by the Western blot test for confirmation. The western blot test checks for antibodies for several proteins of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria.
Can people with Chronic Lyme disease donate blood?
This is a debatable issue in the medical community. As of right now, no blood donation rules suggest checking for the Chronic Lyme disease. There has not been a single case where someone has contracted the disease due to blood transfusion. On the contrary, it is well documented that the bacteria is capable of surviving blood storage in blood banks.
In Arkansas, for example, patients are allowed to donate blood even after having disclosed that they have the chronic Lyme disease. Red Cross said that they will accept the blood without doing any tests prior or post blood donation.
The likelihood of contracting the disease from a blood transfusion is extremely low. It would also be extremely costly to check every donor for chronic Lyme disease. Regardless, even if it were carried out, the chances of coming across a positive sample are close to zero.
There are, however, a different set of experts that believe that every donor must be checked for the chronic Lyme disease. They refer to a study done in 2006, where it was proved that it is possible to spread the disease in mice by blood transfusion.
However, they don’t have any evidence of it being true for humans. Which is why, they advise caution when dealing with blood banks for the same reason. They are of the opinion that if someone is suffering from the chronic Lyme disease, it is safer to not donate blood or any vital organs.
Chronic Lyme disease is one of the fastest growing infections in the United States and is a reason for concern. Although the likelihood of it being transmitted by blood transfusion is less, it should be well considered. In fact, there are no tests that can determine whether the antibiotic treatment works or not.
Patients with lingering symptoms may have traces of the bacteria in their body. In such a case, the safest course of action would be to be wary of blood banks if you are on the receiving end of the blood.
If you are a donor, it would be best to wait until it is surely determined that you are no longer suffering from the disease before going for another blood donation. They should adopt the mindset that they are the one who cannot donate blood until the disease is cured. Blood donation rules may not discuss it, but prevention is better than cure.