Assay identifies rare tick-borne bacteria

Answers from the Lab

Standard testing might not detect certain tick-borne pathogenic bacteria. In this test-specific episode of the "Answers From the Lab" podcast, Bobbi Pritt, M.D., explains how Mayo Clinic Laboratories' new assay identifies less-common bacteria and where the test fits into a new testing algorithm.

"Our standard testing has excellent coverage for the common tick-borne diseases. But we realized it was time to expand to some of the rare and unexpected bacterial diseases as well," Dr. Pritt says.

Standard PCR testing is designed to detect specific targeted bacteria. Mayo Clinic Laboratories' new PCR and next generation sequencing assay targets a region of a gene found in all bacteria. "Subsequent sequence analysis then provides the identification of the bacterium present in the patient's sample. That allows us to report most of the tick-borne bacteria that may be present in a patient's blood sample," Dr. Pritt says. "The test can also detect bacteria that cause diseases with similar presentations to tick-borne diseases, such as leptospirosis."

In conjunction with Mayo Clinic infectious disease specialists, the lab also has developed a new algorithm for tickborne-disease testing, customized by region of the United States. "In that algorithm, the new assay is performed after standard testing has been tried," Dr. Pritt says. "Knowing what's causing a patient's illness allows providers to direct treatment and to counsel patients on how to avoid the disease in the future."

Listen to learn more about Mayo Clinic Laboratories' new tickborne-disease assay.

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Barbara J. Toman

Barbara J. Toman is a Senior Communications Specialist at Mayo Clinic Laboratories. She is also the science writer for Mayo’s Neurosciences Update newsletter, which helps referring physicians to stay informed about Mayo’s treatment and research. Barbara has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2007. She enjoys international travel and cooking.