Over time, my focus has shifted more towards the BetterHealthGuy Blogcast podcast.  While I have left much of the older site content, please note that older content may no longer be relevant or even consistent with my current view on health and wellness.  As time permits, I will continue to adjust earlier content as able.  Thanks for your interest and support!
The information outlined here on testing for Lyme disease and related co-infections is based on my own personal experience.  It may not be an all-exhaustive analysis of possible testing options and is not intended as a substitute for your own research.  Many of the comments represented are opinion as there are numerous debates in the arena of Lyme testing.

It is important to differentiate between tests that look for antibodies and tests that look for antigens, or the actual organisms (or DNA of the organisms themselves).  Antibody testing can be highly unreliable (as can antigen testing).  Lyme disease often evades the immune system and thus false-negatives are not uncommon.  It may be only after the start of treatment that one finds a Western Blot, for example, becoming positive.  This is generally due to the recovery of the immune system and the immune system's ability to now begin to mount an attack and recognize the foreign invaders.

1) ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immunoassay) -  a simple, inexpensive test for detection of antibodies created as a response to an infection with Borrelia Burgdorferi (the main causative agent in Lyme disease).  Personally, I do not believe this test is of any significant value and may represent a doctor that is not well-versed in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease.  It may be a sign to turn and run to find a new doctor if your doctor is relying only on an ELISA test to determine the course of your care. In one study, the test was found to be 55% inaccurate.  Thus the odds are better with a simple coin toss.  The test is not recommended until at least four weeks after exposure.  The C6-peptide ELISA is a more accurate form of the ELISA test though still not recommended.  A positive ELISA must be followed up with a Western Blot.

2) Western Blot - This is likely the most commonly used test for Lyme disease.  It is still an antibody test and thus false negatives are not uncommon, but it is, in my opinion, an important place to start.  Western Blot test results will include both IgG and IgM assays.  In many traditional infections, IgM is an indication of recent infection whereas IgG is an indicator of late infection.  With Lyme Disease, there appears to be a cycling between IgM and IgG and thus, these are not accurate indicators of the length of time the infection has been present in most cases.  
In my opinion, IGeneX is the best place to have this test performed. 

It is critically important that one not look at the NEGATIVE or POSITIVE summary result of the Western Blot test.  That criterion is based on CDC guidelines which many argue are not appropriate for Lyme disease.  Instead, it is important to look at all of the bands and map those to the known Lyme-specific bands (those bands that represent evidence of serological exposure to Borrelia Burgdorferi).  According to Dr. Charles Ray Jones, these are:  18 23 30 31 34 37 39 83 93.  Other doctors focus on 23-25, 31, 34, 39, 83-93 as the most specific bands.  Additional information on the specific bands and what they mean can be found here.

If any of these bands appear in either IgG or IgM, that is a likely indication of past or present infection with the causative agent in Lyme disease.   Thus, that is NOT a clear "negative" test result; "something" consistent with infection with Borrelia was observed.  Some labs reports only + (positive) and - (negative) and ignore equivocal or IND (indeterminate) bands.  This is, in my opinion, an error.  If anything is visible, this is not negative. Quest, for example, does not report IND bands whereas IGeneX does.  In my opinion, testing for Lyme disease via Quest, and most other major labs, is not ideal as they do not test for bands 31 and 34 which where used for Lyme vaccine development.  Something else to consider is that most labs in the US only test for Borrelia burgdorferi.  This may miss many strains of the Borrelia organisms, especially those from Europe.

IGeneX also offers a 30-31kDa Confirmation IgG and IgM test.  If results from the initial Western Blot are positive for bands 30 or 31 only, it is possible that these could be due to cross-reactivity with several different types of viruses.  In this confirmatory test, highly specific recombinant antigens are used to validate that the positive result is not due to cross-reaction with viruses. 
Update February 2018: As of late 2017, IGeneX has shifted from the Western Blot to the new ImmunoBlot.  The new ImmunoBlot expands the Lyme organisms that it may be able to identify to European, Asian, and Australian Borrelia strains.  You can learn more about the different technologies and tests offered by IGeneX here.
Update January 2020: With the ImmunoBlot, the 30-31kDA Confirmation test mentioned above is no longer necessary.  Cross-reactivity with viruses will not lead to a positive band 30 or 31 on the ImmunoBlot as it may have with the earlier Western Blots.
In April 2018, I did a podcast with Dr. Shah from IGeneX which goes into more detail on their offerings and can be found here.

3) PCR (polymerase chain reaction) - a sensitive method of testing where minute amounts of DNA are looked for.  In a presentation that I attended by Dr. Aristo Vojdani PhD, it was noted that PCR tests are positive somewhere between 6% and 15% of the time.  Thus, it was stated that this is not generally a useful test for the evaluation of Lyme Disease.  For PCR to be useful, it should be expected that it may take repeated tests in order to get a positive result.

4) Lyme DOT-BLOT is an assay for the direct detection of Lyme antigen in the urine.  The Reverse Western Blot is an antigen detection test in urine where the urine is exposed to rabbit antibodies for Borrelia burgdorferi.  

5) IGeneX offers the IFA (immunofluorescence assay) for Borrelia.  It has shown many people that have had consistently equivocal or negative results that, in fact, they do have results consistent with Lyme disease.   IGeneX also offers a Babesia FISH and a Bartonella FISH (Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization).  These are antigen detection tests and not antibody tests.

6) CD57 - We have all likely heard of people with HIV/AIDS getting their T-cell counts or CD-4 cell counts checked on a regular basis.  Current information suggests that there is a similar population of NK (natural killer) cells called CD57 cells that are known only to be suppressed in the presence of Lyme disease.  Generally guidelines are that a score of < 20 indicates advanced or highly active Lyme disease.  Scores of 20-60 are indicative of active Lyme disease where scores > 60 start to suggest that the Lyme infection is less active.  A normal test result would be > 200.  It is the opinion of some doctors that treatment is necessary until the CD57 test score is 150 or above.  The lower the result, the more likely a relapse if treatment is terminated.

The test can be an indication of progression of disease or of progress in treatment.  However, it should be noted that it is not uncommon to see only small changes in the results until the end of treatment where the results often then jump quickly to higher levels.  It may be the case that this test can both be used as an indicator of Lyme disease presence and as a marker for when to consider stopping treatment.  Unfortunately, there are people that feel they are recovering and still have low CD57 scores as well as those that have high scores and are still quite ill.  The test doesn't seem to provide consistent value for every patient.  The test is now available through both LabCorp and, as of late 2010, IGeneX.
In my experience, the CD57 test is a good initial screening test, but is not very useful for monitoring progress over time and may not be worth doing more than once a year or so during treatment.  There is anecdotal evidence that suggests that treating some coinfections such as Babesia with effective therapies can also lead to a reduction in CD57 and that CD57 may go down during Herxheimer reactions.  It has also been observed that CD57 may be low in other infections or conditions beyond just Borrelia (i.e. Chlamydia pneumoniae).  Thus, while it is another piece of information, there is some debate around its usefulness.

7) Fry Laboratories offers a number of tests for Lyme and co-infections.  I think they are a good option and one of the few, if not the only one, labs that looks for Babesia and Bartonella in a blood smear.    I had them perform an ANA and antibody tests for Anaplasma, Babesia, and Bartonella.  My tests showed Ehrlichia antibodies as well as Bartonella-like antigens (the actual organism) in the blood smear.  I did not have a positive result for Babesia, however, I have seen other test results from this same lab that did show clear indication of Babesia.  To see my blood smear results, go here.  Contact by phone at 480-991-4555 to request a test kit or you can order the kit online at http://www.frylabs.com.
As of early 2012, the lab is offering a number of tests including BorreliaAnaplasmaBartonellaEhrlichiaCoxiella burnettiRickettsia,PlasmodiumBabesiaToxoplasma, and FL1953.  FL1953 was the original reference for a novel new organism now called Protomyxzoa rheumatica that Dr. Fry and his team have observed in patients with a wide range of chronic diseases.  Protomyxzoa rheumatica is a biofilm-forming protozoan with characteristics similar to Babesia and malaria.  A blog post on this organism can be found here.  Additional information is available here.
Update January 2020: Protomyxzoa rheumatica is more likely a fungal organism known as Funneliformis mosseae.  See comments from Dr. Fry on this from a conversation we had at ILADS 2017 here.  I do not have experience with some of the newer tests from Fry Labs such as next generation sequencing.
8) Another lab for Tick-Borne Infections is Clongen.  I've heard the director of this lab speak at conferences and they appear to have a number of useful tests.  I did perform a couple of their tests and was surprised that they did not find anything in my samples.  That said, I had already been treated for quite some time for Lyme so I wasn't the best test subject.  
9) MELISA testing was traditionally employed for testing for allergic responses to various metals.  It is also available as a potential method for diagnosing Lyme disease by looking at reactivity of blood cells to different strains of Borrelia.  Details on the LTT-MELISA test for Lyme Disease can be found here.  IGeneX offers the "Lyme IGXSpot"; more information available here.
10) Galaxy Diagnostics emerged in early 2010 as a lab with a focus on Bartonella.  For Bartonella testing, this may be one of the best options at present.  If I were exploring Bartonella as a potential factor in illness, this is one of the labs I might consider.  I wrote an article on this topic here.
11) ImmunoSciences Lab has been around for years and is led by Dr. Aristo Vojdani PhD.  They offer a Lyme disease panel that can be found here.  
12) Another option for testing is ArminLabs which is based in Germany and led by Dr. Armin Schwarzbach.  They offer a number of labs such as the Borrelia EliSpot which looks at T-lymphocyte responses.

They offer testing for Lyme and all common coinfections. Dr. Schwarzbach is highly respected in the ILADS community and ArminLabs provides another option for vector-borne infection testing.  More information is available here.
I did a podcast on their offerings with Dr. Schwarzbach which is available here.  
12) Medical Diagnostic Laboratories (MDL) is another lab that many people have found useful.  They do testing for a broad variety of relevant things such as Lyme, Bartonella, Babesia, Candida, Chlamydia, Mycoplasma, and more.  Based on feedback I've gotten on this lab and my own use of it many years ago, I do think it is another useful option. 
13) DNA Connexions, a lab that emerged from the work of Dr. Hal Huggins, offers Lyme testing.  Some practitioners like to do this test after having had significant body work such as rolfing or similar in order to increase the sensitivity of the testing by moving microbes out of tissues.  The test is a urine test.  I first learned about this test from Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, and I do think it is a good option.  Details on their testing can be found here.  My personal experience with the lab is discussed here.
A podcast with Dr. Leslie Douglas from DNA Connexions is available here.
14) The Nanotrap Lyme Antigen test is available through Ceres.  This was discussed in my notes from the 2015 ILADS conference
15) Global Lyme Diagnostics is another newer lab offering.  While I have not personally used their lab, I do respect a number of the people on their advisory board such as Darin Ingels, ND, Mark Filidei, DO, and others.
Testing for Co-Infections
My experience has been that testing for co-infections is a critically important piece of the puzzle.  My initial Western Blot was equivocal and yet, I had evidence of Babesia, Ehrlichia and Bartonella.  This helped to round out the facts in support of my Lyme Disease diagnosis.  I have had the clearest results from the standard IgM/IgG antibody tests (outside of energetic medicine using ART or EAV which were far superior in my experience) from IGeneX and the testing from DNA Connexions, ArminLabs, and Fry Labs when it comes to co-infections.  I also firmly believe that people with Lyme generally have at least one co-infection (in fact I would go as far as to say almost always if not always).  Each co-infection may require different types of treatments and unless all of them are addressed, the chances of recovery are lessened.  Here are some additional thoughts on co-infections:
  • Co-infections are the RULE, not an exception
  • The average child with Lyme has 2-5 co-infections with an average of 3.
  • Treatment of co-infections is required and often, they must be treated BEFORE or concurrent with the Borrelia treatment itself.
  • If you don't test for and treat co-infections, you are not putting yourself in a good position for healing.
  • Almost everyone with chronic Lyme likely has 1 or more co-infections.
  • Co-infections require DIFFERENT treatments in many cases. Do not assume that you are covering them with only the Lyme treatment. Many people don't even know which ones they have.
  • Co-infection testing is often unreliable as well and you need to repeat them over time. It took 4 months for my Bartonella to appear and almost 8 for Babesia to finally appear, but they were there.
  • If you think you only have Borrelia, odds are you have not looked closely enough.
For an article on co-infections in the Public Health Alert, go here

My current preferred approach for testing for co-infections is to use IGeneX (particularly the Babesia and Bartonella FISH tests), DNA Connexions, and ArminLabs.

My Recommendations
For Lyme Disease / Borrelia Testing: 
  • Lyme ImmunoBlot Panel 3 (IB3) from IGeneX which include the ImmunoBlot, the Lyme IFA, and PCR.
  • Lyme Panel from DNA Connexions (after significant body work)
  • ArminLabs using EliSpot
For Co-Infection Testing: 
  • Lyme Panel from DNA Connexions (after significant body work)
  • ArminLabs using EliSpot
  • Co-infection Panel 8 (CP3) from IGeneX which includes Babesia antibody and FISH testing, Ehrlichia/Anaplasma antibody testing, and Bartonella antibody and FISH testing.

I would also definitely do a good heavy metal urine challenge test, viral testing, and a good parasite test.  All too often, people focus too much on just the Lyme and in my opinion miss many of the other important things that are also going on.

In Better Health,

  Was this helpful?  If you found this information helpful, I would very much appreciate your support in keeping the site going.  If you would like to donate to my work, I thank you in advance and send you my gratitude.  

  BetterHealthGuy.com is intended to share my personal experience in recovering from my own chronic illness.  Information presented is based on my journey working with my doctors and other practitioners as well as things I have learned from conferences and other helpful resources.  As always, any medical decisions should be made only with the guidance of your own personal medical authority.  Everyone is unique and what may be right for me may not be right for others.   

Exclusive new offer from BrainTap Technologies