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  • Jyotsna S Shah, PhD 2019

Jyotsna S Shah, PhD 2019

Jyotsna S Shah, PhD

Milpitas, CA
Laboratory Director
IGeneX Laboratory

Title of Talk: Detection of tick-borne infection in Morgellons disease patients by serological and molecular techniques


Morgellons disease (MD) is a skin condition associated with Lyme disease (LD) and tick-borne illness. Patients with this skin disorder experience ulcerative lesions that contain multicolored filamentous collagen and keratin inclusions. Infection with various species of Borrelia and other tick-borne pathogens has been detected in tissue and body fluid specimens from MD patients. We sought to explore this association further in a cohort of MD patients. Sera from 30 patients with MD were tested for antibody reactivity to antigens from the Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) group and the relapsing fever Borrelia (RFB) group of spirochetes. Tissue and/or body fluid specimens from these patients were also tested for the presence of Bb and RFB infection using PCR technology. In addition, tissue and body fluid specimens were tested for the presence of Bartonella henselae using PCR, and formalin-fixed skin sections from a subset of patients were tested using fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) with B. henselae-specific DNA probes. Seroreactivity to Bb, RFB or both was detected in 63% of the cohort, while positive PCR testing for Bb, RFB or both was detected in 53% of the cohort. Overall, 90% of patients tested positive for exposure and/or infection with Borrelia spirochetes. B. henselae infection was detected by PCR in skin sections or body fluids from 20% of the subjects, and B. henselae FISH testing was positive in 30% of the dermatological specimens submitted for study. The study demonstrates an association between MD and positive tests for both Bb and RFB spirochetes. In conjunction with previous studies, our study provides corroborative evidence linking MD to Borrelia infection and tick-borne illness.


Dr. Jyotsna Shah is the President and Laboratory Director of IGeneX Clinical Laboratory, Milpitas, CA. Dr. Shah has over 40 years of research experience in immunology, molecular biology and microbiology, has been published and holds more than 20 patents. After receiving her B.Sc. and M.Sc in Biological Sciences from UK and her Ph.D. in diagnostic immunology from Nairobi University in Kenya, Dr. Shah joined International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases (ILRAD) as a post-doctoral scientist and started the first DNA sequencing laboratory in E. Africa. On completion of her fellowship, she went on to join Harvard University's Department of Tropical Medicine as a research fellow and continued work on development of molecular tools for diagnosis of parasitic diseases. Since then Dr. Shah has worked at several Biotechnology companies focusing on the development of novel molecular technologies for diagnosis of infectious diseases and has become a world expert on use of Fluorescent in Situ Hybridization (FISH) technique for direct detection of pathogens in clinical samples. Dr. Shah joined IGeneX as the Director of Research and Development in 1997 and in 2003 became Laboratory Director (clinical and research). During her time with IGenex she introduced the first Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization (FISH) test for Babesia and also set up the PCR department for tick-borne diseases. Under Dr. Shah's direction, the laboratory has developed an excellent QA program and under her scientific guidance, IGeneX has become the world's leading reference laboratory for diagnosis of tick-borne diseases In November of 2018, a study on Morgellons disease directed and co-authored by Dr. Shah and titled “Detection of tick-borne pathogens in Morgellons disease patients by serological and molecular techniques” was published in the peer reviewed Journal of Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology.