Senator Richard Blumenthal has announcde a $600,000 federal grant to improve testing for Lyme disease.
He made announcement Wednesday in Danbury alongside researchers from Western Connecticut Biomedical Research Institute and the Seattle-based RareCyte Inc.
His office says Lyme disease affects some 300,000 Americans each year and that Connecticut has a high number of reported cases. Many of the current tests used to detect Lyme disease can give false negative results early in the course of the illness, leading to delayed treatment.
Dr. Ramin Ahmadi, Chair, Department of Medical Education and Research shared; “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.”
The scientists 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. The assay could have significant impact on the state of current Lyme disease diagnostics.
Ron Seubert, CEO of RareCyte, Inc stated, “We are extremely pleased with our fruitful collaboration with Dr. Paul Fiedler and his group at the WCHN Biomedical Research Institute. Development of more sensitive and accurate methods of direct detection of Borrelia burgdorferi for the purpose of diagnosing Lyme disease patients is a high-priority area of interest for NIAID. Dr. Fiedler understood the utility of RareCyte technology when applied to Lyme disease, and the SBIR grant is further recognition of that utility.”
Dr. Eric Kaldjian, CMO of RareCyte, is the Principal Investigator on the grant. In a preliminary pilot study, the team, which also includes Dr. Denise McKibben and Donna Guralski at WCHN and Dr. Joshua Nordberg of RareCyte, analyzed blood samples of a small cohort of patients clinically diagnosed with acute Lyme disease using RareCyte technology before, during and after antibiotic treatment. In all patients, B.burgdorferi-positive staining objects were identified in the blood. In some cases the positive staining objects persisted even after antibiotic treatment had been completed. “Based on these preliminary results, we see a potential for monitoring symptomatic patients for response to antibiotic therapy as well. However, the RareCyte assay for Lyme disease detection requires further development and study before it can be made available for routine clinical use. The SBIR grant will support that effort,” said Dr. Kaldjian.