Dear Dr Brad McKay
Regarding your factually incorrect article The great Australian Lyme conspiracy published on news.com.au on March 16th 2016 in which you state...
Lyme disease is real, but there’s no scientific proof that it’s occurring in Australia.
1. Go to a computer
2. Open PubMed or Medline
3. Type Lyme Borreliosis Australia
In 1959, Mackerras published on the isolation of Borrelia in Australian kangaroos, cattle, rodents and bandicoots and in 1962, Carley and Pope identified an Australian strain of Borrelia they named Borrelia queenslandica which was isolated from wild rats.
In 1982, Stewart and colleagues from the Hunter Immunology Unit and University of Newcastle published evidence of an erythrema chronicum migrans (ECM) rash on a 21 year old labourer working in bushland in the lower Hunter Valley in 1980. Circulating immune complexes were detected and the patient developed symptoms of relapsing arthritis followed by behavioural change, headaches, memory loss and urinary retention along with supraventricular tachycardia
In a 1986 letter to the Medical Journal of Australia, McCrossin highlighted the cases of two people on the NSW South Coast who experienced EM (bullseye) rashes, and were treated with antibiotics, and subsequently reported no further issues.
If you have a look at the veterinary literature, you will see Rothwell et al. reported on ‘Suspected Lyme disease in a cow’ in the Australian Veterinary Journal in 1989. The cow suffered from lameness, emaciation and severe diarrhoea and was euthanised. Positive serology for Borrelia burgdorferi was reported.
In the early 1990s there were two Borrelia research projects undertaken. Wills and Barry (1991) found three Borrelia species in Australian ticks resembling Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia garinii and Borrelia afzelii. Russell and Doggett (1994) reported no Borrelia in their research but isolated 'spirochete-like objects'. They dismissed these as artefacts and concluded that there is no Borrelia burgdorferi in Australia.
In 1994 Dr Bernie Hudson and colleagues suggested an indigenous form of Lyme occurs in Australia, caused by spirochaetes more closely related to B. garinii and B. afzelii than B. burgdorferi sensu stricto.
In 1998, Dr Bernie Hudson published evidence for Borrelia garinii detected in a skin culture of a symptomatic patient. The patient had travelled to Europe 17 months before the onset of symptoms however, the authors suggested the clinical features suggested the infection had been acquired in Australia.
In a 1998 editorial, Cestnick acknowledges previous studies that have confirmed the presence of Borrelia in Australia.
In 2011 Dr Peter Mayne published evidence of Borrelia and co-infections with 55% tested positive for Lyme, 32% for Babesia, 22% for Bartonella and 16% for Anaplasma phagocytophilum. He included evidence of a patient testing positive for Borrelia despite never having left Queensland.
In 2014, Dr Peter Mayne also published evidence to show the presence of b. burgdorferi sensu stricto infection in erythema migrans biopsies in Australian patients who presented to his practice in 2012. Sydney laboratory, Australian Biologics performed the laboratory testing for DNA evidence of Borrelia in Sydney and the authors published evidence for transmission of b. burgdorferi sensu stricto species to humans by the tick i. holocyclus in Australia.
It is a myopic and negligent that despite all the positive findings published in journals, laboratory evidence showing positive Borrelia Immunoblot results and PCR test showing the actual DNA of Borrelia in Australian patient tissue samples (serum, urine, blood, semen) as well and clinical evidence based on cardinal signs and symptoms of Borreliosis, the government and medical Borrelia deniers are still relying on the negative findings of the Russell and Doggett study from 1994.
Here are the full references:
Carley JG & Pope JH. 1962, A new species of Borrelia (B. queenslandica) from Rattus villosissimus in Queensland. Aust J Exp Biol, Vol. 40: 255-262.
Cestnick L. 1998, Lyme disease in Australia, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 22(5), 524
Doggett, SL, Russell, RC, Munro, R, Dickeson, D, Ellis, J, Avery, D, Hunt, CL, Simmonds,
J and Trivett, N 1994, ‘Lyme disease - the search for the causative agent in southeastern
Australia’, Arbovirus Research in Australia, 6: 313-315
Hudson BJ, Barry RD, Shafren DR, Wills MC, Caves S, & Lennox, VA. 1994, Does Lyme borreliosis exist in Australia. J Spirochetal Tick Borne Dis, 1, 46-52.
Hudson B., Stewart M., Lennox V., Fukunaga M., Yabuki M., Macorison H., Kitchener-Smith J.. 1998. Culture-positive Lyme borreliosis. Med J. Aust. 168: 500–502.
Mackerras MJ. 1959, The haematozoa of Australian mammals. Aust J Zool. Vol. 7: 105-135
Mayne, P.J et al. 2014 Evidence for Ixodes holocyclus (Acarina: Ixodidae) as a Vector for Human Lyme Borreliosis Infection in Australia, J. Insect Sci. 14(271): 2014;
Mayne P. J. 2011. Emerging incidence of Lyme borreliosis, babesiosis, bartonellosis, and granulocytic ehrlichosis in Australia. Int. J. Gen. Med. 4: 845–852.
Mayne P. J. 2012. Investigation of Borrelia burgdorferi genotypes in Australia obtained from erythema migrans tissue. Clin. Cosmet. Investig. Dermatol. 5: 69–78.
McCrossin I. 1986. Lyme disease on the NSW south coast. Letter to Med. J. Aust. 144: 724–725.
Rothwell JT, Christie BM, Williams C & Walker KH. 1989, Suspected Lyme disease in a cow, Aust Vet J. Sep;66(9):296-8.
Stewart A et al. 1982. Lyme Arthritis in the Hunter Valley. Med. J. Aust. Feb 6;1(3):139
Wills MC & Barry RD. 1991, Detecting the cause of Lyme disease in Australia. Med J Aust, 155:275.