Health network receives grant for Lyme detection research

A more effective test for Lyme disease is closer to reality thanks to a $600,000 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Disease, Western Connecticut Health Networks (WCHN) said during a ceremony last week.

The institute awarded a small business innovation research program grant to RareCyte, Inc., which will work in collaboration with the Western Connecticut Biomedical Research Institute to find a new test for Lyme disease.

Western Connecticut Health Networks includes Norwalk, Danbury and New Milford hospitals.

Dr. Ramin Ahmadi, chair of the department of medical education and research said last week, “We know that many people suffer the debilitating effects of Lyme disease and it is a priority for us to seek out new pathways to diagnosis and treatment. We are excited by our early findings and grateful to the NIAID for this opportunity to further our research in order to improve testing and restore health to those affected by this terrible disease.”

Currently, the health network says, about half of approved Lyme tests are “sub-optimal” and often return negative results in patients who do suffer from Lyme disease “causing painful delays in treatment and even misdiagnosis.”

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, an advocate for this grant award, said last week “The lack of advanced diagnostic technology and adequate information about this pernicious disease means Lyme all too often goes undetected in its victims, ultimately causing lasting and devastating harm. This grant will fund important strides in understanding Lyme disease, helping lead to earlier detection and better treatment of the illness.”

Specifically, scientists with RareCyte have developed an “assay method for direct visualization of the Lyme infection in blood that combines RareCyte’s density-based separation and enrichment technology for rare cells with immunofluorescence microscopy.”

Based on preliminary results of this method, RareCyte’s chief medical officer, Dr. Eric Kaldijian, said “we see a potential for monitoring symptomatic patients for response to antibiotic therapy as well.”