Monday, February 13, 2012

2 Lyme Disease In Australia On Today Tomorrow Show

Last night the Australian television news show, Today Tonight, aired a segment on Lyme disease in Australia. While the dramatic reporting in this segment is not to my taste, I took special note of the research starting at roughly the 6:28 mark [11 minute video below may not work on all mobile devices]:
Excerpt from the transcript:
Inside a laboratory at Newcastle University a dedicated team, including Professor Tim Roberts, is toiling away on a fresh independent study - a collaboration with Sydney University - to determine whether Lyme disease is carried by Australian ticks. 
Professor Roberts thinks that Lyme Disease is in Australia. Thousands of ticks are being collected, and already he disputes long held theories that Australian sufferers only contract the disease after visiting Europe or America. 
“What we say and conclude is there is an organism here which is very similar to those two infected organisms, the one in Europe and the one in America,” he said. 
Some believe it got to Australia from migratory birds that fly all the way from Siberia and nest on our beaches. Then there's another school of thought that it's actually an indigenous strain, and it's always been in our country.
Professor Roberts believes that many people carry Lyme disease and don't even know. “A whole lot of people could, certainly absolutely, in the group with chronic fatigue syndrome,” he said.
It should be noted, however, that not everyone agrees with Professor Roberts - here is one person who disagrees:
“The opinion is that there is no good evidence that Lyme disease is acquired in Australia at the moment,” Dr Jeremy McAnulty from New South Wales Health and Protection said. 
“The other important information is that ticks that carry Lyme disease overseas aren't present in Australia, so we don't seem to have the right ticks for Lyme disease in Australia,” he added.
So no matter where one is in the world, Lyme disease generates controversy.

I want to know more about what Professor Roberts has found regarding finding an organism similar to the Borrelia that is in the US and Europe. This video is short on details in this regard.

I've found some mention of previous attempts to find the causative agent of this Borreliosis-like illlness from research done over 15 years ago - but nothing definitive.

What was said back then could well apply today:
Dr Bernie Hudson, a microbiologist who runs a clinic for Lyme disease sufferers at Royal North Shore Hospital, said it was better to treat those with symptoms of the disease as if they had it, rather than waiting years to have its existence in Australia accepted by other scientists, he said. 
Westmead entomologist Dr Richard Russell said his group had been "painted as baddies" but he would like to see the Newcastle team "get some money to do a definitive study and find out if it does exist".
Over fifteen years ago... is this Newcastle team which is doing research now related to those who had done the research in the past?

In the meantime, I hope those patients who were interviewed get the help they need and get better.

The transcript for the above video can be found here:


  1. I'm from the research group here at Sydney University and we are doing our research independently. Our issue as an independent laboratory is mainly funding. We have managed to get some funds from the Karl McManus foundation, however, they are a relatively young foundation so they don't get a lot of donations. I am sure we will know a lot more by the years end.

  2. Anonymous,

    Welcome to Camp Other blog and thank you for your comment.

    Would I be correct in guessing that due to certain rules under your employment contract that you are requested to secure prior permission before discussing your work with the media - including a blog such as this one?

    If so, I appreciate it all the more that you have stopped by to make a comment - though I would appreciate it if we had more information from the project PI. It would be fantastic if the PI is willing to speak openly here of their research and I know Camp Other readers would be interested.

    I'm glad the Karl McManus foundation is helping fund your research and I hope you receive more funding to continue. Are there any government grants which you can apply for? Is this something the CSIRO has any interest in?

    If you can link to your department's web site to share what kind of work your team has been doing, that would be greatly appreciated. Also if there is any sort of summary of your team's role in this research, I would love to hear more about it (e.g surveillance, RT PCR testing, methods such as fluorescent microscopy, etc.) and it would be great to get an idea of which Australian and international journals in which you intend to submit your findings.

    I look forward to hearing more about your research milestones over the next year.

    Best wishes from Camp Other


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