Australia has no Lyme disease- So why are activists promoting it?

In 2016, Australian scientists writing in The Medical Journal of Australia concluded the following about Lyme disease in Australia:

  • There is no convincing evidence that classic Lyme disease occurs in Australia, nor is there evidence that the causative agent, Borrelia burgdorferi, is found in Australian animals or ticks.
  • Lyme disease, however, can be acquired overseas but diagnosed in Australia; most people presenting with laboratory-confirmed Lyme disease in Australia were infected in Europe.
  • Despite the lack of evidence that Lyme disease can be acquired in Australia, growing numbers of patients, their supporters, and some politicians demand diagnoses and treatment according to the protocols of the “chronic Lyme disease” school of thought.
  • Antibiotic therapy for chronic “Lyme disease-like illness” can cause harm to both the individual (eg, cannula-related intravenous sepsis) and the broader community (increased antimicrobial resistance rates).
  • Until there is strong evidence from well performed clinical studies that bacteria present in Australia cause a chronic debilitating illness that responds to prolonged antibiotics, treating patients with “Lyme disease-like illness” with prolonged antibiotic therapy is unjustified, and is likely to do much more harm than good.

A 2018 analysis of 698 submissions to a Senate inquiry in Australia found the following:

The most common symptoms described were fatigue (62.6%), disordered thinking (51.9%) and sensory disturbance (46.1%). Respondents reported experiencing symptoms for a median of 10 years and spent a median of $30000 on diagnosis and treatment. Almost 10% of respondents self-diagnosed after being exposed to a media report of Australian Lyme disease.

 

The analysis concluded:

Patients diagnosed with Lyme disease in Australia display a symptomology similar to ‘medically unexplained physical symptoms’ syndromes, experience social and financial harms, and are at risk of nosocomial [health care facility caused] harms. Negative medical interactions and the media may contribute to patients seeking alternative and potentially non-evidence based diagnoses and treatments.

 

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