There are several routes medical professionals can take to diagnose Lyme disease. The mainstay option is the Western blot test or an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test. These tests are used together as a two-step process to determine whether or not a person has a Lyme infection.
In some cases, the ELISA test won’t be able to return a positive diagnosis because the early stages of Lyme disease may not be caught. This is because an ELISA test looks for specific antibodies, and the immune system needs time to create those after initially contracting the bacterial infection. The Western blot, on the other hand, is used to determine if there are antibodies or traces of the bacteria’s proteins within the blood.
While these tests are typically the first port of call, another test can be used to determine whether or not a person has had Lyme disease: the CD57 blood test. But what is the CD57 blood test, and what does it mean to have a low CD57 count?
What is a CD57 blood test?
The CD57 blood test is another form of testing used to diagnose Lyme disease, or to determine how well treatment is working for that who have already been diagnosed. When conducting a CD57 blood test, medical examiners check for levels of the CD57 lymphocyte.
Lymphocytes are white blood cells that work with the immune system to help fight off specific types of pathogens. The most notable lymphocytes used to fight off infection are B-cells, T-cells, and natural killer cells. These immune cells are tasked with creating antibodies that are specific to the pathogen that has infiltrated the body. In the case of Lyme disease, natural killer cells, T-cells, and other kinds of cells can contain a CD57 marker on their surface that indicates a Lyme disease infection.
When looking for Lyme disease, however, the CD57 marker on natural killer cells is the most important, and should be the focus when investigating a potential case using the CD57 test.
What is CD57?
Cluster designation, or CD, is a type of glycoprotein molecule that acts as a type of marker for certain infections or diseases. Each cell in the body has its own identifying marker, similar to the way each person has their own visual identity. While there are thousands of CDs in existence, roughly 200 have been identified and designated with numbers. Each CD from 1 to 200 is used to identify different things on various cells within the body.
When looking at chronic diseases, each cell will have CD markers depending on the specific cell and the specific disease. CD57 is typically a marker used to identify Lyme disease. This is why using CD57 levels is a viable way to detect a chronic and long-term Lyme disease infection.
What can cause a low CD57 count?
When CD57 counts are found to be low, it leads doctors to the conclusion that there is some sort of immunological defect occurring. This means the immune system may be compromised due to an infection, leading to a lower number of CD57 markers. When the immune system isn’t functioning as it should because of an infection, the way it produces cells and the markers associated with those cells are negatively affected.
Why is CD57 low in Lyme disease?
Medical researchers aren’t quite sure why CD57 becomes low in patients with Lyme disease. That said, it can be used as a good distinguishing marker because it is quite specific to Lyme disease. Other diseases that are often confused with Lyme disease because of similar symptoms (including MS, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus) do not cause lower counts of CD57.
How to raise CD57 count
Raising a CD57 count is a matter of treatment for Lyme disease. Since it is caused by a bacteria, the only way to combat it is through a course of antibiotics. Typically, when a person has long-term Lyme disease, they have to take one of many antibiotic options for a specific amount of time to help rid the body of the bacteria. Options include:
The specific type of antibiotic used will depend on a person’s circumstances and allergy status to antibiotics, as well as whether or not they have been treated with antibiotics for Lyme disease prior to the long-term onset of symptoms. Once treatment has begun, the CD57 test count should raise and return to normal. If it doesn’t, the test can be used to monitor the count and determine whether or not treatment has to continue for a set period of time.
Low CD57 counts are highly associated with Lyme disease and medical researchers can use this test as a reliable way to both diagnose and monitor disease.