Martha’s Vineyard Hospital brings Lyme test in-house

Hospital lab director Lena Prisco stands next to a new Biomerieux MiniVIDAS analyzer, used to rule out Lyme disease. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital has begun performing Lyme disease testing and providing results on site. Until recently, the hospital sent all Lyme samples to an off-Island reference lab, Imugen, in Norwood.

The hospital recently acquired a new instrument, the Biomerieux MiniVIDAS analyzer, which can reliably test for the indicators of the disease. “Using the latest validated technology, the Biomerieux is accurate and sensitive enough to detect reliably the total amount of Lyme IgG and IgM antibodies,” the hospital said in a press release.

“For both patients and doctors, this means results can be available in as little as 40 minutes and treatment can begin right away if needed,” Hospital lab director Lena Prisco said. “Before, turnaround could be up to two days because the samples were sent off-Island. It really helps reduce a patient’s anxiety to know they don’t have to wait as long for their results.”

The hospital laboratory will send all positive results out to the reference lab for additional higher-level Lyme titer testing.

“Given the high risk of Lyme disease on the Island, it is very important that we have this technology,” hospital chief executive officer Tim Walsh told The Times. “Ms. Prisco and the lab have done a great job expanding our capabilities.”

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged deer ticks. Ticks must be attached for 36 to 48 hours before the bacteria can be transmitted.

Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The diagnosis of Lyme disease is based on symptoms, physical findings (for example, a bulls-eye rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks; laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics.