CD 57 is a test that can help your doctor look at certain components of your immune system which can be affected by lyme disease. It can be used to determine if you are suffering from chronic lyme disease despite testing negative in all the other tests.
Certain white blood cells called lymphocytes, found in the blood, tissues and lymphoid organs, target antigens (foreign proteins) in different ways. The main lymphocyte types are B-cells, T-cells and natural killer (NK) cells. B-cells produce antibodies that are stimulated by infection or vaccination.
T- cells and NK cells, on the other hand, are the “destroyers” in the immune system and they attack and kill tumorous cells or cells infected with viruses. NK cells have their own specific surface markers.
The most common marker is CD56. The percentage of CD56 NK cells is often measured in patients with chronic diseases as a marker of immune status: the lower the CD56 level, the weaker the immune system.
A smaller population of NK cells are CD57.
A low CD57 number has been associated with chronic Lyme disease according to Drs. Stricker and Winger. The reason the CD 57 NK cells are low in Lyme disease patients remains unclear, however it is important to note that many chronic disease states that are often confused with chronic Lyme disease are not associated with low CD57 NK counts. These include diseases such as MS, systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis.
Usually the CD57 NK level increases as treatment progresses and health is regained, hence it is a good indicator of improvement in the disease process and treatment success.
CD57+ markers can also be seen on other kinds of cells, including T-cells, therefore it is important to distinguish between CD57+ T-cells and CD57+ NK cells.
Many laboratories that do the CD57 panel are actually looking at CD57 T-cells rather than CD57 NK cells, which are the cells of interest in chronic Lyme disease.
When Drs Stricker and Winger discovered that CD57 NK cells are low in chronic Lyme patients and tend to increase with patients’ clinical improvement, it proved to be a major tool for Doctors treating lyme patients that allowed them to follow the progression of the patients condition.
Be aware however that the CD57 test result is just another number; far more important is the patient’s clinical status and the overall condition of the patient should be assessed as a whole rather than relying on one marker or test alone. Unfortunately too many Doctors tend to ignore this advice and blindly follow the test results only.
I hope this article has helped to explain the nature of the CD57.