Australian Health Departments Denial of Lyme Disease
The current position of the Australian Health Department is that Lyme disease is not in Australia. That this denial continues to be based on one study done that was done over 19 years ago can be seen in the response that another Australian Lyme disease sufferer received in 2010 from Health Minister, Carmel Tebbutt. Her response explained that the relevant species ''have not been isolated in surveys of ticks collected in south-eastern Australia. Until there is solid evidence to indicate that locally acquired Lyme disease is a significant public health matter in Australia, specific measures to educate the general public or clinicians are difficult to justify.'' Dr Jeremy McAnulty (Director of Health Protection with the New South Wales Department of Health) also refers to this 1994 study in the denial, or “not a lot of evidence stance”, of locally acquired Lyme disease being in Australia.
The results of this study are also the basis of what appears on the Department of Medical Entomologies and NSW Department of Health website. As such, the following information addresses the information on these websites and the study published in 1994: “Lyme disease: search for a causative agent in ticks in south-eastern Australia”. This study has been published in numerous journals, though with regards to any page numbers referenced below, it is in regards to the article published in the journal of Epidemiology and Infection (see below).
Three of the primary authors of this study were R. Russell, S. Doggett and D. Dickeson and are all long term employees of Westmead Hospital, Sydney, NSW. Departments at Westmead Hospital control/decide the appropriate testing with regards to Lyme disease / borreliosis in Australia. Russell is the founding and current Director of the Department of Medical Entomology (DME), as such he is the current advisor to the health department on the status of Lyme disease in Australia (addendum: R. Russel retired June 2012). Doggett is the manager of the Arbovirus Surveillance & Vector Monitoring Program for NSW Health, conducted at DME, Westmead. Dickeson is the Serology Manager, Centre for Infectious Diseases & Microbiology Lab Service, ICPMR, Westmead Hospital.
The Department of Medical Entomology’s website acknowledges that Lyme Disease is the “most frequently reported human tick-borne infection worldwide”, it goes on to say that “it has been reported from every continent (except Antarctica), although doubt remains as to whether it occurs in the southern hemisphere in general, and in Australia in particular”.
This doubt is based on the fact that - “In 1988 at Westmead Hospital, a multidisciplinary investigation of putative LD in coastal New South Wales began, encompassing clinical, serological, vector and reservoir host studies.”
These components: Clinical & Serological; Vector ; Reservoir host studies, are examined individually in the following segments.
The details are yet to be uploaded to the individual website segments: For the full review - in a downloadable PDF format : please click here Research Link
The 1994 Study made reference to above is:
Russell RC, Doggett SL, Munro R, Ellis J, Avery D, Hunt C, Dickeson D. (1994) Lyme disease: search for a causative agent in ticks in south-eastern Australia. Epidemiology and Infection 112: 375-384. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8150011
Abstract: "Attempts were made to identify the causative organism of Lyme disease in Australia from possible tick vectors. Ticks were collected in coastal areas of New South Wales, Australia, from localities associated with putative human infections. The ticks were dissected; a portion of the gut contents was examined for spirochaetes by microscopy, the remaining portion inoculated into culture media. The detection of spirochaetes in culture was performed using microscopy, and immunochemical and molecular (PCR) techniques. Additionally, whole ticks were tested with PCR for spirochaetes. From 1990 to 1992, approximately 12,000 ticks were processed for spirochaetes. No evidence of Borrelia burgdorferi or any other spirochaete was recovered from or detected in likely tick vectors. Some spirochaete-like objects detected in the cultures were shown to be artifacts, probably aggregates of bacterial flagellae. There is no definitive evidence for the existence in Australia of B. burgdorferi the causative agent of true Lyme disease, or for any other tick-borne spirochaete that may be responsible for a local syndrome being reported as Lyme disease".