Lyme disease: new patient-focused study could ‘change lives’

Stock image.
Stock image.

THE Lyme Disease Association of Australia (LDAA) says its funding of a new patient-focused pilot research study in Australia would change the lives of thousands of patients.

The project aims to test clinical samples from patients, using an innovative method for the diagnosis of vector borne infections – including those from tick bites.

LDAA chief executive Sharon Whiteman said Australians who were desperately unwell after a tick bite had waited years for credible research to uncover what was making them sick.

MORE: Lyme disease sufferer looks forward to brighter future with pilot study

“The results could be ground-breaking,” she said.

“It is evident researchers are actually working towards gaining new insights that will help patients receive a reliable diagnosis for this terrible disease.

“This could change the lives of thousands of patients who are currently falling through the cracks in this evidence-based policy world.”

Ms Whiteman said the study results will be submitted for publication in peer reviewed journals with wide readership by Australian medical practitioners.

Greens spokesperson for Health Alison Xamon called on the Government to ensure WA was included into national research into Lyme-like diseases and the State’s interests were properly represented.

Ms Xamon, who put forward a motion in Parliament this week on the issue, said significant numbers of Western Australians had for decades been reporting chronic debilitating symptoms attributed to tick bites.

She said people were currently being turned away without a diagnosis and the support they need.

“They feel stigmatised, bullied and harassed by some health professionals who do not believe that such a syndrome exists in Australia,” she said.

“In some instances, sufferers have died by suicide.”

Ms Xamon said now that the 2016 Senate Committee report on the Growing evidence of an emerging tick-borne disease that causes a Lyme-like illness had been published, it was vital the West Australian context was represented as its recommendations were implemented.

She said experts in the field believed the situation in WA was likely to be different from the eastern states.

“The recommendations made by the Senate Committee represent a good start but we, in WA, must ensure that we are not at a disadvantage to other Australians through a lack of awareness, participation in research or models or treatment,” she said.

The Australian Medical Association does not recognise Lyme disease in Australia, however in recent years has conceded that patients can present with suspected tick-borne illness.

It recommends general practitioners focus on individual patient symptoms rather than a label such as Lyme disease.

The AMA did not respond to requests for comment.

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