Draft guidelines on diagnosing Lyme disease

NEW guidelines from NICE advise that a patient presenting with a tick bite and a characteristic circular rash (erythema migrans) should be diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease with antibiotics.

The draft guidance outlines when doctors can diagnose Lyme disease without the need for tests and when they should investigate further. It states that doctors should not diagnose Lyme disease simply if a person has been bitten by a tick but has no other symptoms.

Specific tests to help diagnose Lyme disease are also outlined in the draft guidance, including ELISA and immunoblot to detect antibodies created by the immune system to fight the infection.

Lyme disease spreads to humans through infected tick bites and affects up to 3,000 people a year in England and Wales, according to Public Health England.

Saul Faust, professor of paediatric immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Southampton and chair of the guideline committee, said: "Lyme disease may be difficult to diagnose as people can have common and unspecific symptoms, like a headache or fever, and they may not notice or remember a tick bite.

"Our draft guidance will give GPs and hospital doctors clear advice on how to diagnose if they think Lyme disease is a possibility."

The proposed advice is out for consultation until 6 November.

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