Every couple of months, we have these stories come through of somebody who has been bitten by a tick that otherwise wouldn’t have sought medical attention until they see their Geneticks tick report. Often, they are accompanied by other indicators of Lyme disease, where based on the symptoms you can almost definitively say that this individual was infected and needs treatment. There was one case which was published recently in a medical journal, it is the story of a 21-day old child that was from a farming family and was out in the fields with their parents when they were bit by a tick. The family wasn’t super concerned at the time because as farmers, they see ticks all the time, but they did decide to send the tick to Geneticks for testing after the child started behaving a little differently.
Geneticks tested the tick and determined it was a blacklegged nymph tick that had been attached for approximately three days, as it had been feeding for a while, this meant there was a higher likelihood of transmission of any bacteria, and this tick ended up testing positive for Lyme disease. The report went out and we informed the parents that the tick had tested positive for Lyme disease and there was a high likelihood of transmission, it was then they started to notice there was rash forming on their child alongside a worsening of symptoms. They took their child immediately to sick kids, bringing with them the positive tick report. At the hospital they explained that their child was bitten by a tick, that they had had the tick tested, and that it was positive for Lyme disease. This is what kicked off their investigation into Lyme disease.
They then had to make the difficult decision of how to treat a 21 day old child for a condition like Lyme disease. They did a spinal tap and established that the bacteria had become established into the cerebral spinal fluid. This meant the bacteria was likely in the brain and they then had to opt for IV antibiotics, as IV antibiotics are able to penetrate the blood brain barrier in a way that oral ones are not. They ended up doing 14 to 21 days of IV antibiotics for this child. One of the difficult decisions that they had to grapple with the benefits of treating Lyme disease early, which are absolutely paramount or some of the Herxheimer reactions which occurs when you do treat, while also taking into consideration the fragile developmental stage, of a 21 day old baby.
The outcome in this case has been that this child has been in remission for Lyme disease for over a year now. They have no signs or symptoms of Lyme disease, and they continue to test negative for any indicators of active Lyme disease. Without our testing they may not have gone that road, where they may not have entertained the idea of Lyme disease and as a result they may not have done the more intensive antibiotic therapy that was required to help heal this child.
That’s just one of many stories that always comes back and truly resonates for why we do what we do at Geneticks and to have that published in a medical journal is really important because it helps set a precedent for how tick testing can be used to inform early treatment options for tick borne diseases like Lyme disease.