There has been a recent increase in discusion about Lyme Disease as a cause of many unexplained symptoms. This discussion has appeared in the Australian media and on the internet.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme Disease is an infection caused by an organism called, B. burgdorferi senso stricto. Since the discovery of Borrelia in ticks and humans in 1975 in Lyme, Connecticut, USA, much has been written about Lyme Borreliosis (LB). The organism is transferred to humans via a tick bite.
How is it diagnosed?
It is diagnosed by specialised blood tests.
Is this organism found in Australia?
Testing for this organism began in 1988. In1990 researchers from the University of Sydney collected 12,000 ticks in coastal NSW with no evidence of Borrelia being found.
Since then there has never been a confirmed case of lyme disease acquired in Australia. The ticks we have in Australia do not support the life cycle of borrelia burgdoferai.
The specialised laboratory in Australia to test for Lyme Disease is the Institute for Clinical Pathology and Medical Research,Sydney University, Westmead.
Why is Lyme Disease being diagnosed in people in Australia?
The blood test advertised on the internet to diagnose the condition in Australia is being performed by a commercial laboratory using an unvalidated research assay. The laboratory that is undertaking the assay is not credentialed with Royal College of Pathologists of Australia.
There are now many websites advertising special tests and claiming to diagnosie Lyme disease without there beign robust research evidence to back these claims. There is an Australian Government research committee ( ( as of 2014 ) collating the evidence but have yet to report.
There are no registered pathology laboratories in Australia offereing these “new” tests and are unlikely to do so until there is evidence that the test are accurate.
Many people are sending blood to the US. The registrationand certification of these laboratories is unknown.
In anyone who has been diagnosed with Lyme Disease on the basis of a positive blood test, I recommend a further sample been sent to the Institute for Clinical Pathology and Medical Research,Sydney University, Westmead. This laboratotry provides the “Gold standard” for testing.
How is Lyme Disease treated
Lyme disease requires antibiotics in the early phase and may require prolonged treatment. The positive benifits of long term antibiotics remain to be evaluated. The advese effects of long term antibiotics are well researched.
It is important that the diagnosis be confirmed before treatment is commmenced.