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New evidence of tick disease in Australia

A new clinical study shows evidence of a wide range of tick-borne disease in an Australian cohort.

Australian health authorities deny the presence of lyme in Australia, a policy which has been extended to include other tick-borne diseases. Doctors who treat lyme have been persecuted.

The study suggests that there is a considerable presence of borreliosis in Australia, and a highly significant burden of coinfections accompanying borreliosis transmission.

According to the study’s author, Dr Peter Mayne, “The concept sometimes advanced of a “Lyme-like illness” on the continent needs to be re-examined as the clinical interplay between all these infections.”

Of interest, 83 of 492 respondents (16.5%) reported never leaving the country.

Thirteen patients’ illness could be traced from birth or in the first year of life; six were siblings, two were from one family, and four were from another, indicating the possibility of maternal transmission. In addition, borreliosis was laboratory proven in both mothers.

Abstract

Clinical determinants of Lyme borreliosis, babesiosis, bartonellosis, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis in an Australian cohort

Authors: Mayne PJ, Laurieton Medical Centre, Laurieton, NSW, Australia

Background: Borrelia burgdorferi is the causative agent of Lyme borreliosis. This spirochete, along with Babesia, Bartonella, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and the Rickettsia spp. are recognized tick-borne pathogens. In this study, the clinical manifestation of these zoonoses in Australia is described.

Methods: The clinical presentation of 500 patients over the course of 5 years was examined. Evidence of multisystem disease and cranial nerve neuropathy was sought. Supportive laboratory evidence of infection was examined.

Results: Patients from every state of Australia presented with a wide range of symptoms of disease covering multiple systems and a large range of time intervals from onset. Among these patients, 296 (59%) were considered to have a clinical diagnosis of Lyme borreliosis and 273 (54% of the 500) tested positive for the disease, the latter not being a subset of the former.

In total, 450 (90%) had either clinical evidence for or laboratory proof of borrelial infection, and the great majority of cases featured neurological symptoms involving the cranial nerves, thus mimicking features of the disease found in Europe and Asia, as distinct from North America (where extracutaneous disease is principally an oligoarticular arthritis). Only 83 patients (17%; number [n]=492) reported never leaving Australia.

Of the 500 patients, 317 (63%) had clinical or laboratory-supported evidence of coinfection with Babesia or Bartonella spp. Infection with A. phagocytophilum was detected in three individuals, and Ehrlichia chaffeensis was detected in one individual who had never traveled outside Australia. In the cohort, 30 (11%; n=279) had positive rickettsial serology.

Conclusion: The study suggests that there is a considerable presence of borreliosis in Australia, and a highly significant burden of coinfections accompanying borreliosis transmission. The concept sometimes advanced of a “Lyme-like illness” on the continent needs to be re-examined as the clinical interplay between all these infections. Evidence is presented for the first report of endemic anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis on the continent.

More

  • Mayne PJ, 2014, Clinical determinants of Lyme borreliosis, babesiosis, bartonellosis, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis in an Australian cohort, International Journal of General Medicine 2015, 8:15-26 (abstract), (full paper)
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Written by Russell Logan

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Russell Logan worked as a magazine publisher and editor until forced into early retirement through ill health with ME. He has battled with moderate to severe ME for 25 years. He now lives in Noosaville, Australia.

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