This month (October 2015) a ground breaking peer-reviewed study was released in PubMed giving hope to the thousands of suffering people in Australia.
The study shows a direct link between birds and tick-borne diseases (TBP) of which Australia and New Zealand provides critical habitat for millions of migratory birds each year. The following abstract shows the most likely culprit for spreading tick-borne disease.
“Ticks are important vectors of emerging zoonotic diseases affecting human and animal health worldwide. Ticks are often found on wild birds, which have been long recognized as a potential risk factor for dissemination of ticks and tick-borne pathogens (TBP), thus raising societal concerns and prompting research into their biology and ecology. To fully understand the role of birds in disseminating some ticks species and TBP, it is important to consider the evolutionary relationships between birds, ticks and transmitted pathogens. In this paper we reviewed the possible role of birds in the dissemination of TBP as a result of the evolution of host-tick-pathogen associations.”
“Birds are central elements in the ecological networks of ticks, hosts and TBP. The study of host-tick-pathogen associations reveals a prominent role for birds in the dissemination of Borrelia spp. and Anaplasma phagocytophilum, with little contribution to the possible dissemination of other TBP. Birds have played a major role during tick evolution, which explains why they are by far the most important hosts supporting the ecological networks of ticks and several TBP.”
“The immune response of birds to ticks and TBP has been largely overlooked. To implement effective measures for the control of tick-borne diseases, it is necessary to study bird-tick and bird-pathogen molecular interactions including the immune response of birds to tick infestation and pathogen infection.”
It is completely baffling why major medical institutions, indeed seemingly ALL of the medical mainstream in Australia ignores such obvious links to the current disease that we call Lyme disease and insist it does not exist.
Part of the problem lies in the difficulty of identification.
However, recent medical research by Murdoch University Professor Peter Irwin was given prominence in the national Sidney newspaper. The study conducted by Dr. Irwin gives credence not only to the 1500 people who have self-identified through the survey given at Australia Lyme Disease Association (or the many thousands more who have been diagnosed clinically by one of the few practicing Lyme-literate MD’s), but the untold thousands more living with an array of symptoms who have been bitten by ticks.
The correlation between the multi-symptomatic illness that have people have and the exposure to or the remembrance of an actual tick bite leave many to believe the world-wide epidemic has not in fact skipped over Australia as the AMA (Australia Medical Association) would have you believe.
In fact, borrelia has been found in many ticks both soft and hard ticks which some experts believe gives evidence to multiple species of borrelia being on the rise in beautiful Australia. There are over 200 species of infectious borrelia in the world according to Lyme experts and possibly more due to the morphological nature of the infection http://lymediseaseresource.com/Biology_of_LD.html.
It is true that many of the currently confirmed cases come from people who visited other endemic areas like the US Northeast or Europe but the prevalence of suspected cases are near the coast where, not unexpectedly, the greatest Australian population of LD exists and also where the migratory seabirds congregate (see statistics at LDAA).
As I previously reported on my website Lyme Disease Resource, Australia has been previously identified by researchers as having LD. Specifically the borrelia genome databank set up originally by SUNY researchers Dr. Benjamin Luft and his colleagues show clear evidence of Borrelia being found in soft ticks all over Australia and New Zealand.
There is also the ever-present danger cross-contamination from one spot on the globe to another as is evidenced multiple times in peer-reviewed medical literature. One recent example comes from Romania (see http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0029914) showing the spread of Borrelia turcica which comprises the third major group of arthropod-transmitted borrelia from Turkey to Japan – by turtles!
How many other animals have been innocently shipped from one country to another without thought to the possibility of a tick-borne disease? There are of course many other far more dire methods of possible contamination such as blood transfusions and possibly even other insect bites*.
To give a bit of history, in 2013, the Department of Health’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Baggoley – the Australian government’s top medical adviser – instigated the national clinical advisory committee into Lyme disease. Baggoley urged doctors “to keep an open mind” on the issue, and suggested there may be a “Lyme-like” illness in Australia. Potential research projects were identified, but when it convened in July 2014 the committee concluded that until a “causative agent” – such as the Borrelia bacteria – is located in Australia, it would be difficult to provide comprehensive research funding.
Meanwhile, LDAA (Lyme Disease Association of Australia) laments that the advisory committee has not translated to action. Association president and diagnosed Lyme sufferer Sharon Whiteman says:
“There’s no progress for patients. It hasn’t changed their experience in the emergency department or the doctor’s office. Even providing a letter that directs them to keep an open mind to Lyme disease, that hasn’t changed”
But as unbelievable as it may seem, of yet the official stance in Australia is that Lyme disease (let alone chronic LD) does not exist.
On a positive note, the Australian government is attempting to address the problem with new initiatives, and there is increasing pressure for cause of the Lyme-like disease in Australia to be isolated and categorized. In June of this year (2015) the Sidney Herald published a high profile article about the Lyme crisis with heart-rending stories of individuals who have suffered the Lyme gauntlet.
The article reveals even more hope and possible resolution to the controversy:
“… Pymble Grove Health Centre GP Richard Schloeffel, who is treating 400 patients for Lyme disease, said antibiotics were the lesser of two evils and the only cure.
Dr Schloeffel is part of a University of Sydney study that is attempting to identify a strain of borreliosis that might cause Lyme disease in Australia and establish a test for it.
“I’ve never seen anything like these patients,” he said.
“The illness is far more dangerous than the administration of antibiotics. It can be life-threatening.”
It certainly feels life-threatening.
Additionally, there is one laboratory in Australia – Australian Biologics – routinely sees positive test results for Lyme disease among patients who have not been out of Australia.
Director of Australian Biologics Jennie Burke estimated 20 per cent of her tests returned a positive finding of Borrelia, and this was because her tests were sensitive to all strains of the bacteria, including those that are carried by Australian ticks, and not just the variety endemic to Connecticut where Lyme was first identified.
So, bottom line is that if you live in Australia and suspect you have Lyme disease, save your money and contact LDAA for a list of LLMDs near you and insist on the test from Australian Biologics.
NOTE *the official stance on Lyme transmission is that it takes 24 – 48 hours to become infected by Borrelia in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, for instance Spirochetes have been found in the saliva of ticks which is exposed to the host within minutes of being bitten. The original study that the CDC based this information on was the length of time it took Borrelia to infect rabbits, not people. Lyme has also been conclusively diagnosed in military veterans from Iraq who were bitten by Sandflies (http://lymediseaseresource.com/wordpress/sandflies-in-iraq-infect-americans-who-bring-home-lyme-disease-and-multiple-co-infections/) and some say mosquitoes – see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC266646/.
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