Skip to content

    Arthritis Health Center

    Font Size

    Lyme Disease Test


    A Lyme disease test detects antibodies to the Lyme disease bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi in the blood.

    Test results are usually available in 1 to 2 weeks.

    Lyme disease test
    Normal (negative):

    No antibodies to Lyme disease bacteria are found.

    The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test does not find any Lyme disease bacteria DNA.

    Abnormal (positive):

    Antibodies to Lyme disease bacteria are found.

    The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test detects Lyme disease bacteria DNA.

    Normal (negative) values

    A normal, or negative, test for Lyme disease can mean one of the following:

    • You do not have Lyme disease. A negative PCR test usually means that you do not have a Lyme disease infection.
    • You have Lyme disease but it does not show up on the test (false-negative). This is more likely with the antibody tests than with PCR. Reasons for a false-negative result include the following:
      • You have not yet made antibodies to the Lyme disease bacteria. The infection may be present, but it is too early to find antibodies. This is most likely to occur during the first several weeks of infection.
      • Blood levels of antibodies against Lyme disease bacteria are too low for the test to detect.
      • Occasionally, some people who were not treated correctly with antibiotics in the early stage of infection may not have antibodies to the Lyme disease bacteria in later stages of the illness.

    Abnormal (positive) values

    An abnormal, or positive, test for Lyme disease can mean one of the following:

    • If antibodies are found, you may either have Lyme disease now or had the illness in the past. Once you have a Lyme disease infection, antibodies to the bacteria will usually stay in your body for the rest of your life.
    • If Lyme disease bacteria DNA is found, you probably have an active Lyme disease infection.
    • The result is a false-positive. Sometimes an antibody test for Lyme disease finds antibodies to other bacteria, such as syphilis, or viruses, such as the Epstein-Barr virus or the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The test may also find antibodies that develop as part of an immune response against the body's own tissues (autoimmune disease), such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Your doctor may not be able to tell if the antibodies found in these tests are caused by a current Lyme disease infection.

    The PCR test may be done to confirm an infection if you have a positive antibody test result.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 04, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

    Today on WebMD

    Mature woman exercise at home
    Hint: Warming up first is crucial.
    feet with gout
    Quiz yourself.
    woman in pain
    One idea? Eat fish to curb inflammation.
    senior couple walking
    Can you keep your RA from progressing?
    xray of knees with osteoarthritis
    close up of man wearing dress shoes
    feet with gout
    close up of red shoe in shoebox
    two male hands
    Woman massaging her neck
    5 Lupus Risk Factors