Tick Testing

Tick Testing

  • Fast and accurate testing of Deer Ticks
  • PCR testing to detect the DNA of Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme Disease

 

Introduction

Ticks are parasites that are dependent on the blood of humans and animals. There are more than 850 species of ticks, many of which have been shown to carry disease. If bitten by an infected deer tick, humans and animals can be infected and may develop Lyme Disease, which is caused by a spirochete bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi.
ASI can test your tick for the presence of B. burgdorferi DNA to determine whether your tick was infected and help you (with your physician / veterinarian) determine appropriate action. 

Tick Testing Frequently Asked Questions

How big are Deer Ticks? 
Deer ticks in the young or nymph stage are tiny, about the size of a poppy seed. These juvenile ticks are most likely to bite humans and are the main source of transmitting Lyme Disease.  The primary season for nymphal tick activity is mid-May to August. 

How likely is it that the tick caused infection?
Typically, the likelihood of transmission of the bacterial from the tick to a person increases the longer the tick is attached.  Because these ticks are small and their bite is usually painless, they can go unnoticed. Larger deer ticks can also transmit the disease, but are usually noticed due to their size. Not all ticks carry the bacterium that causes Lyme Disease, and others like the dog tick, can carry the organism, but have not been shown to transfer the disease to humans or animals. It is estimated that twenty-five percent (25%) of ticks in the nymphal stage and fifty-percent (50%) of adult deer ticks are infected with the Lyme Disease bacterium.

How can I help minimize the risk of bite ticks and infection?
In addition to the usual precautions to avoid tick contact (avoidance, protective clothing, inspection, insect repellent, etc.) the most important preventive measure to reduce the risk of Lyme Disease, or other potential diseases spread by ticks, is to remove the tick as soon as it is discovered.

How do I remove a tick after being bitten?
Ticks feed on blood by inserting their mouth parts into the skin. Their body remains outside the skin. Remember, your chances of acquiring Lyme Disease are low if the tick is removed within the first 48 hours that the tick is attached to the skin. Don't panic. Tick removal can be performed safely and effectively by following these steps:

  • If available, wear a pair of gloves. You should not handle the tick with your bare hands.
  • With a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, near the "head" of the tick. Pull gently and firmly in an upward steady motion until the tick releases its hold on the skin. Do not twist.
  • If the tick is going to be sent for testing, save the tick in a small plastic jar or zip-lock plastic bag.
  • Wash the area with a disinfectant and wash your hands with soap and water.

Precautions when removing a tick:

  • Be patient.
  • You want to avoid crushing the tick's body. Fluids within the tick might contain infectious agents.
  • Do not apply petroleum jelly, nail polish, alcohol or a hot match.
  • If the tick is not going to be sent for testing, dispose of the tick by placing it in alcohol and / or flushing it down the toilet.
  • Some mouthparts might break off and remain within the skin. Relative to Lyme Disease, this is usually not a concern. The body of the tick, if successfully removed, is where the infective agent is. Treat the remaining body parts as you would a splinter and disinfect as above.
  • Monitor the site of the bite for appearance of a rash for at least a month. Contact your physician promptly with any concerns.

How is tick testing performed?
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection caused by a spirochete called Borrelia burgdorferi. Analytical Services, Inc. will first identify the type of tick by examination and will then use a highly sensitive genetic screening procedure called Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to test the tick for the presence of the B. burgdorferi DNA. The identification of the tick and the test results will be important information for you and your physician.

What are the limits of this test?
Please note that tick testing for the bacterium responsible for Lyme Disease is a screen.  If the test result is positive (B. burgdorferi DNA detected) it does not mean it was transmitted to the person (or pet) that was bitten.  Further, if the test is negative, it means the presence of B. burgdorferi was not detected – but this does not rule out having been bitten by more than one tick.  The PCR test is intended to provide important information for you and your physician to determine, when combined with other information, the risk of exposure to Lyme Disease and any subsequent clinical follow-up and treatment. ASI does not perform clinical (blood or tissue) testing for the presence of Lyme Disease in humans or animals.

What should I tell my doctor (or veterinarian)?
You should relay the type of tick and the results of the PCR test for B. burgdorferi DNA. 
Other important information to help determine the risk of Lyme Disease exposure include:

  • If possible, a determination of how long the tick was attached.
  • Was the tick engorged? That is, did the tick appear to be full of blood when removed?

How do I send the Tick for testing?

  • The tick can be alive or dead for PCR testing.
  • Please DO NOT preserve the tick (no formaldehyde, formalin, alcohol, or tape)
  • Place the tick in a small plastic bottle or sealed plastic bag and enclose in an envelope or package suitable for shipping.
  • ASI recommends sending the tick by FedEx/UPS or US Mail
  • Send the tick with your name, email address, phone number (with area code), mailing address and prepayment to:

Ship or Mail to
TICK TESTING 
Analytical Services, Inc. 
130 Allen Brook Lane 
Williston, VT 05495

How much does tick testing cost?
The cost is $65.00 per tick. You may pay by credit card (include your card number and expiration date), personal or bank check. Ticks will not be processed without prepayment. Generally, insurance companies do not cover tick testing. Complete and enclose the attached submission form in the package. 
(Click here for the submission form)

How quickly will I get results?

  • Allow five (5) business days for results to be fully processed.
  • All reports will be emailed (or mailed if no email address is provided)

Where can I get more information about ticks and Lyme Disease?
There are numerous sources available to gain additional information on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, clinical testing and treatment. In addition to your local regional or state extension service, State Public Health Department and local hospitals, you might wish to investigate the following:

  • Centers for Disease Control (CDC) - 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636). 
    www.cdc.gov
  • American Lyme Disease Foundation - (800) 876-5963
    www.aldf.com