In anticipation of its incorporation into Public Health England, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has been reviewing its microbiology services and management. As part of the resulting re-organisation the functions of the Lyme Borreliosis Unit are being moved to the Special Pathogens Reference Unit at Porton which already provides reference services for a number of other pathogenic bacteria and viruses including Rickettsias and Coxiella (Q Fever).
Although screening tests for Lyme disease will continue to be the responsibility of local and regional laboratories, a new confirmatory immunoblot will be introduced at Porton. The new test will be a strip blot with fully automated processing of the strips: detecting the intensity of the bands and accurately comparing this with the control cutoff. The previous western blot was read by hand: subjectively separating and judging varying shades of grey.
Dr Sue O’Connell, previous head of the LBU at Southampton, retired on Friday March 30th; as, coincidentally, did the Head of Emerging Infections and Zoonoses in the Department of Health who has been responsible for Ministers’ responses on Lyme disease over at least the last two governments.
New lab, new test, new gatekeeper.