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Penn Researchers attach Lyme disease antibodies to nanotubes, paving way for diagnostic device
Date:3/26/2013

Early diagnosis is critical in treating Lyme disease. However, nearly one quarter of Lyme disease patients are initially misdiagnosed because currently available serological tests have poor sensitivity and specificity during the early stages of infection. Misdiagnosed patients may go untreated and thus progress to late-stage Lyme disease, where they face longer and more invasive treatments, as well as persistent symptoms.

Existing tests assess the presence of antibodies against bacterial proteins, which take weeks to form after the initial infection and persist after the infection is gone. Now, a nanotechnology-inspired technique developed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania may lead to diagnostics that can detect the organism itself.

The study was led by professor A. T. Charlie Johnson of the Department of Physics and Astronomy in Penn's School of Arts and Sciences along with graduate student Mitchell Lerner, undergraduate researcher Jennifer Dailey and postdoctoral fellow Brett R. Goldsmith, all of Physics. They collaborated with Dustin Brisson, an assistant professor of biology who provided the team with expertise on the bacterium.

Their research was published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

"When you're initially infected with the Lyme disease bacterium, you don't develop antibodies for many days to a few weeks," Johnson said. "Many people see their physician before antibodies develop, leading to negative serological test results. And after an initial infection, you're still going to have these antibodies, so using these serological diagnostics won't make it clear if you're still infected or not after you've been treated with antibiotics."

The research team's idea was to flip the process around, using laboratory-produced antibodies to detect the presence of proteins from the organism. This is an extension of previous work Johnson's lab has done connecting other biological struct
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Contact: Evan Lerner
elerner@upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert

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