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Call for support with new tick removal and Lyme testing kit

Written by Fiona

October 26 2015

Lyme disease is on the rise in the UK – and worldwide. And this topic is very relevant for anyone who enjoys spending time in the great outdoors. Lyme disease is carried by ticks and these wee beasties like to hang out in the Scottish countryside. One bite of an infected tick can lead to Lyme disease, although if caught early the long-term ill-health consequences are preventable

Over the years I have written about campaigns to highlight the danger of ticks and the potential for Lyme’s disease. Here’s a tick awareness article I wrote for Scotland Outdoors.

These campaigns focus on raising awareness among the public and GPs to act quickly to prevent Lyme disease. But there is still a rising incidence of the disease.

Now a Scottish company is developing a new tick removal and Lyme’s disease testing product that they believe will have a “significant impact on preventing Lyme disease worldwide”.

The product, from Garrapat, comprises a device that removes ticks at the push of a button and seamlessly collects it in a removable cartridge. After this the collected tick is sent away to the lab and Garrapat test it (rather than a test on the human) for the parasite that causes Lyme disease – all in just five days.

What is Lyme disease?

Chronic Lyme disease is a serious tick-borne infection that can leave sufferers with severe long-term health issues, including paralysis, blindness, cardiac problems, chronic fatigue and psychiatric symptoms. Hundreds of thousands of people are affected worldwide, principally in Europe (including Scotland and the rest of the UK) and North America.

The US has an estimated 330,000 cases per year while Germany may have as many as 1.5 million. Outdoor workers and people who enjoy activities such as hillwalking or mountain biking are particularly at risk but anyone who visits the countryside (or even a park or garden) can become infected

Yet Lyme disease is preventable if detected early enough. However, the disease has a variety of symptoms that can be confused with other conditions. There is also claimed to be a lack of awareness among the general public and even medical practitioners.

Although several tick removal tools are available on the market, if the tick is not removed quickly the Lyme disease parasite will have the chance to pass into the bloodstream. After that point, removal of the tick makes no difference.

Current tests for Lyme disease

Currently, if you are worried that you have been infected by a Lyme disease carrying tick you must attend your GP. They will then carry out a test on your blood or urine. But this test can only be done when enough antibodies have been developed.

Unfortunately, and according to the Lyme Disease Action group: “There are currently no conclusive tests for Lyme disease in routine use in the UK that will accurately diagnose Lyme disease or distinguish active from past infection.

“Blood tests that look for antibodies to the bacteria that cause Lyme disease are the main test. This is known as serology.

“If antibodies have not developed sufficiently, it is possible for these tests to be negative despite active infection.

“Antibodies can persist for years in treated, asymptomatic patients, so positive serology does not always indicate active disease.”

In fact, Garrapat claim that the current test only works in half of the presented cases.

The Garrapat difference

The Garrapat diagnostic is different because it tests the tick for infection with the Borrelia parasite that causes Lyme disease.

A spokesperson says: “We aim to diagnose the presence of Lyme disease within five days of a person being bitten by a tick. This means there is no anxious waiting to find out results and treatment can be administered while the disease is still susceptible to antibiotics”.

How it works

At the push of a button, a tick is removed from the skin. The tick is collected in a removable cartridge that is sent to Garrapat labs for testing. The cost of the testing is included in the price of the purchase of the device.

Garrapat states: “We use a highly sensitive approach to detect the Borrelia parasite within the tick, which is far more accurate than the serological tests currently used.

“Test results will be returned to Garrapat users or their doctors within five working days, providing a sound basis for medical treatment if the tick is positive for Borrelia. This is well within the timescale to prevent chronic Lyme disease.”

Garrapat use a long established and validated scientific genetic screen to test for the genetic fingerprint of the Lyme bacteria within the tick itself. This method is called real time polymerase chain reaction (or PCR for short).

It is an extremely sensitive method and ensures the tests for the Lyme causing bacteria will be 99.89% accurate.

In comparison, the blood tests currently ordered by doctors are only 50% accurate and frequently misdiagnose many true Lyme sufferers leading to a lifetime of ill health.

Should you still go to the GP?

People should still need to go to their GPs as soon as possible due to the limited time available to treat Lyme effectively in its early stages. GPs will decide what action to take on treatment and may request that the patient has a blood test to confirm their diagnosis.
However, people need to be aware that blood testing yields a very high proportion of false negative results. GPs may still decide to wait for symptoms to appear but this provides confirmation that the person was bitten by an infected tick.
Although GPs will still make decisions on whether or not to treat people for Lyme disease, Garrapat’s technology will provide faster, more accurate information on the risk that a person has been infected.

Call out for crowdfunding support

Next month, Garrapat will launch a campaign on rewards-based crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to raise £20,000. This will be used to produce a prototype tick removal device and trial the efficiency of the Lyme disease diagnostic service under high traffic loads.

Garrapat has also partnered with a product developer agency in the UK and finalised the design and functionality of the device.

Once funded, they can begin the development stage and they are confident of having the first orders posted within six months.

Garrapat founder Dr Bruce Alexander, who has 30 years’ experience of working on insect-borne disease research worldwide, says: “We want to get the message out that nobody needs to suffer this horrible disease through a combination of awareness, an easy-to-use means of removing ticks and a prompt diagnosis of Lyme disease that can protect everyone.

“By helping us reach our funding target, backers can help to stop people developing chronic Lyme disease and experiencing a lifetime of pain and disability.

“Added to the feel-good factor of striking a blow against this debilitating condition, backers can get their hands on Garrapat before anyone else at a discounted price.

“We don’t need millions in funding to make Garrapat a reality but we do need the involvement of as many people as possible to help raise the profile of Lyme and back our project.”

See www.garrapat.com and Indiegogo sign up page: www.garrapat.com/indiegogo

Keep an eye on Indiegogo from November 10 to support this project.

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