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Lyme Disease (Borreliosis) in Australia

Lyme Disease Australia The existence of Lyme disease bacteria in Australian ticks is denied by governments, both State and Federal.

See http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/factsheets/infectious/lyme_disease.html. Presently there are no official statistics on the number of people suffering from Borreliosis. This is despite first documented record of a Borreliosis (Lyme/Lyme-like disease) sufferer from the Newcastle region of NSW in 1982.

This denial of the existence of Borreliosis by the government is largely due to a study by Russell and Doggett (1994).

Russell and Doggett, (1994) was given a NHMRC grant to answer the question whether Australian ticks carry Borrelia bacteria. Almost, simultaneously another group at the University of Newcastle and Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney (Prof. Richard Barry, Michelle Wills and Bernie Hudson) investigated the same question.

Russell and Doggett (1994) could not isolate any Borrelia DNA from the common Australian ticks collected from the Eastern seaboard. They collected 12,000 ticks but only tested 1038 with PCR. Throughout the study they assumed that only the B.burgdorferi strain can cause Lyme disease.

The established studies in Europe which had identified at least two other strains – B.garinii and B.afzelii – as pathogens which cause Borreliosis were not acknowledged. In addition, they used both fed and unfed ticks and from the fed ticks they isolated spirochete-like objects (SLO), which they decided were artefacts (bacteria like objects under the microscope but not bacteria). These artefacts were dead spirochetes. In vitro culture of spirochetes is difficult at best.

In contrast, Michelle Wills did isolate and grow the spirochetes from Australian ticks, and identified the spirochetes as Borrelia. Further, in this study evidence of exposure to Borrelia in patients with clinical symptoms of Borreliosis was shown. A cohort of 1024 people were tested and approximately 20% tested positive on a Western Blot against the American strain B. burgdorferi (B31) or the European strain B.garinii (NBS-16) and B.afzelli (ACA-1), 56% of the positive results were due to B.garinii, 34% B.afzelii and 10% B.burgdorferi (Wills, PhD, 1995).

Russell and Doggett (1994) did not acknowledge the publication by Carley and Pope (1962) which identified an Australian strain of Borrelia, Borrelia Queenslandica. In addition, the Mackerras (1959) publication, reporting the isolation of Borrelia from Australian fauna – kangaroos, wallabies and bandicoots, was also omitted.

Given that Mackerras (1959), Carley and Pope (1962) and Wills and Barry (1994) all managed to grow and isolate Borrelia from Australian native animals and only one study has not been able to isolate and grow Borrelia in Australia. In fairness, the evidence overwhelmingly support the existence of Borrelia in Australian ticks.

Write to your State and/or Federal MP to increase awareness of Lyme Disease in Australia. Please see below for a pro-forma letter.

MP_generic_letter.doc
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