Tick testing for Lyme and other infections?

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Tick testing: Not recommended

Ticks can harbor a number of different microorganisms. Some of these can be transmitted to humans and cause disease.

After removing a tick, CDC and other experts recommend against tick testing for diagnosis of infections. Since in endemic areas only about 2% of tick bites result in Lyme disease, a positive result on a test for pathogen DNA still means that infection is highly unlikely.

Tick identification

However, it may be useful to identify the tick, possibly with the help of a physician, entomologist, or other expert. For example, if the tick is a dog tick, Lyme disease can be ruled out because only black legged (Ixodes) ticks carry Lyme disease.

TickEncounter at University of Rhode Island has a web site called TickSpotters that can help you identify ticks. You can even submit a photo of a tick, and a scientist will identify it for free.

There are also free local tick identification labs for residents of Maine and Illinois. The Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease at University of Wisconsin-Madison will identify ticks submitted from residents of Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. 

So why would you want to test a tick for pathogens? Scientific curiosity is a good reason. UMass Amherst’s TickReport has a comprehensive database of submitted ticks—including detected pathogens and location—which may be useful for surveillance and scientific research.

 
PCR testing
 

Recommended Tick Testing labs

If interested in having a tick tested, we generally recommend a university-based non-profit testing lab such as:

Additionally the state of Vermont sponsors a citizen science project called the Vermont Tick Tracker, which crowd sources information about ticks in Vermont.

Labs Not Recommended

We recommend against patronizing IgeneX, ArminLabs, BCA-Lab (also called InfectoLab), Ticknology, Geneticks, and the lab of Vett Lloyd at Mount Allison University.

Resources

CDC: Tick removal and testing

CDC: Tick bite: Guidance for Patients | Clinicians

European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease: Tick tests for the detection of Borrelia are not recommended

EMOT Roots Radio: Tick Tests Often Inaccurate Indiana Experts Say