Evidence of Borrelia in Australia

This page provides an overview of research which supports the existence of Borrelia in Australia as discussed in the Lyme Disease Association of Australia’s 2014 Lyme disease in Australia: Patient submission to the Australian Government Department of Health’s ‘Scoping study to develop a research project(s) to investigate the presence or absence of Lyme disease in Australia’, page 4.

  • Lyme Disease Association of Australia, 2014. Lyme disease in Australia: Patient submission to the Australian Government Department of Health’s ‘Scoping study to develop a research project(s) to investigate the presence or absence of Lyme disease in Australia’.
  • Mackerras MJ. 1959, The haematozoa of Australian mammals. Aust J Zool. Vol. 7: 105-135. This study reported the isolation of Borrelia from Australian fauna including kangaroos, wallabies and bandicoots.
  • Carley JG & Pope JH. 1962, A new species of Borrelia (B. Queenslandica) from Rattus Villosissimus in Queensland, Aust J Exp Biol Vol. 40: 255-262. This study resulted in the identification of a new species of Borrelia, B. Queenslandica, was identified in a native Australian rodent. It produced a relapsing infection in laboratory rats and mice that responded to antibiotics. A human volunteer inoculated with B. Queenslandica did not, however, become infected.
  • Stewart A, Glass J, Patel A, Watt G, Cripps A & Clancy R. 1982, Lyme arthritis in the Hunter Valley, Med J Aust. Feb 6;1(3):139. This study documents the 1980 case of a man bitten by an unidentified insect in the NSW Hunter Valley, and his resulting symptoms, described as “classical features of Lyme arthritis”. Mention is also made of 6 cases of EM (bullseye) rash diagnosed by local dermatologists within the previous 12 months.
  • McCrossin 1986, Lyme disease on the NSW South Coast, letter to Medical Journal of Australia. Vol. 144 (June), 724-725. This letter details the cases of two people on the NSW South Coast who experienced EM (bullseye) rashes – one of them also reported additional symptoms such as lethargy. Both were treated with antibiotics, and subsequently reported no further issues.
  • Rothwell JT, Christie BM, Williams C & Walker KH. 1989, Suspected Lyme disease in a cow, Aust Vet J. Sep;66(9):296-8. This study details the case of a cow located in Camden, NSW who suffered from lameness, emaciation and severe diahorrea. The cow was enthanased, and a positive serology for Borrelia burgdorferi was reported.
  • Wills MC & Barry RD. 1991, Detecting the cause of Lyme disease in Australia. Med J Aust, 155:275. This letter details a study in which the gut contents of ticks found in the NSW Hunter Valley and Manning River districts were cultured. Many of the ticks were removed from pets and livestock, some of which were lame. 42% were culture-positive for Borrelia-like spirochetes. The letter also assert more than a dozen Australians on the northern beaches of Sydney and in the Hunter Valley have acquired Lyme disease, as reported in a letter to the Medical Journal of Australia. In addition, it found 70 of 167 of Australian ticks were culture positive for Borrelia-like spirochaetes.
  • Hudson BJ, Barry RD, Shafren DR, Wills MC, Caves S, & Lennox, VA. 1994, Does-lyme-exist-in-australia-by-b-hudson J Spirochetal Tick Borne Dis, 1, 46-52. This study suggests that based on immunoblotting testing, an indigenous form of Lyme occurs in Australia, caused by spirochaetes more closely related to B. garinii and B. afzelii than B. burgdorferi sensu stricto. This document is particularly interesting, as the authors refer to the (then recent) Russell and Doggett study that did not find evidence of Borrelia in Australia: “These negative results have not deterred our research as one of us (BJH) regularly sees clinical cases of LB acquired in Australia”.
  • Cestnick L. 1998, Lyme disease in Australia, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 22(5), 524. This editorial article acknowledges previous studies that have confirmed the presence of Borrelia in Australia. The author offers potential reasons for the difficulty in identifying Borrelia serologically, and the differences in symptoms compared to cases reported in other countries.
  • Hudson BJ, Stewart M, Lennox VA, Fukunaga M, Yabuki M, Marcorison H & Kitchener-Smith J. 1998, Culture-positive Lyme borreliosis, Med J Aust, Vol 168:500-502. This study details the case of a patient with Lyme-like symptoms whose skin biopsy cultured positive for Borrelia garinii. Despite previous European travel, his clinical history indicated a tick bite on the NSW Northern Beaches as the likely cause. The authors suggest that B. garinii may be a more appropriate positive control than B. burgdorferi, when searching for an indigenous Australian spirochaete.
  • Mayne PJ. 2011, Emerging incidence of Lyme borreliosis, babesiosis, bartonellosis, and granulocytic ehrlichosis in Australia. Int J Gen Med.; 4:845-852. Patients reporting symptoms of Lyme and co-infections were tested for the causative agents via multiple methods (IFA, IgG and IgM Western Blot and PCR). Testing was specific to each patient’s likely infections. 55% tested positive for Lyme, 32% for Babesia, 22% for Bartonella and 16% for Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Patients included an individual who, despite testing positive for Lyme, Babesia duncani, Babesia microti and Bartonella henselae, had never left Queensland.

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