Five Articles on Proof of Lyme in Australia (1982 – 1998)

Sourced via the National Library of Australia by Nikki Coleman


Despite the continuing denial by Government that "there is no Lyme here", the following articles are contrary to that view.  The denial of the existence of Lyme disease in Australia is largely due to the flawed study by Russell and Doggett in 1994.

The Lyme Disease Association of Australia (LDAA) presented a timeline of conclusive proof of the existence of Borrelia in Australia in its Supplementary Submission to the Australian Senate Inquiry on the Growing evidence of an emerging tick-borne disease that causes a Lyme-like illness for many Australian patients (Submission 528) .

These articles are difficult to find online but we provide them here for your convenience:

 Case 1 -----

As far back as 1982, Anne Stewart, John Glass, Abdhor Patel, Geoffrey Watt, Allan Cripps, and Robert Clancy published the above paper in the Medical Journal of Australia, emanating from the clinical records of a 21 year old labourer working in bushland near Branxton in the lower Hunter Valley.  The man developed an erythema chronicum migrans (ECM) rash when he was bitten by an unidentified insect in February 1980.  Showing the classical signs of Lyme arthritis and further developing behavioral changes, headaches, memory loss, and a stiff neck.  It is reported that the man tested negative for many of the common viruses but was treated by a course of intravenous penicillin early in the disease, however the disease persisted.  

"Lyme arthritis tends to be endemic, often occurring in summer clusters, and probably many incomplete forms of the disease are not diagnosed.  The aetiological agent is presumably a penicillin-sensitive organism transmitted by arthropods, most commonly the tick Ixodes scapularis.  The common tick in the Hunter Valley is Ixodes holocyclus; there is no evidence of an increased prevalence of these increased prevalence of these insects.  A tick bite was not identified in our patient, though mosquitoes were prevalent in the area, and this vector has been linked to ECM in Scandinavia".

You can read this article here: 1982 - Lyme Disease in the Hunter Valley; Med Journal of Australia - Lyme Disease in the Hunter Valley Med Jnl of Australia 1982

Case 2 -------

An article in 1986 to the Medical Journal of Australia outlined two cases of 'Lyme disease' on the NSW south coast.

A 34 year old gardener from Guerilla Bay, near Maruya in New South Wales attended his doctor in March 1985 after being bitten on his arm and back by a tick and subsequently developed a ECM.  A second patient, a 60 year old female from North Bendalong near Nowra, presented with a similar story.  Both were treated with penicillin and recovered. 

"I wish to report the presence of Lyme disease and its cutaneous manifestation, erythema chronicum migrans on the NSW south Coast".

You can read this article here: 1986 - Lyme Disease on the South Coast of NSW; McCrossin Med Journal Aust  - Lyme Disease on the South Coast of NSW McCrossin Med Jnl Aust 1986

Case 3 ------

The article by Michelle Wills and Richard Barry, in the Medical Journal of Australia in 1991 outlined the researchers findings of a 'Lyme disease-like syndrome in Australia'.  In 1989 Dr Michelle Wills, a microbiologist, observed a Lyme disease-like syndrome in her local district and commenced study into the phenomena. Under the supervision of Professor Richard Barry, microbiologist and immunologist, Dr Wills produced a series of research papers which led to her PhD thesis titled “Lyme Borreliosis, The Australian Perspective”. Dr Wills’ thesis is lodged in the Auchmerty Library of Newcastle University, and marked ‘not for loan’.

"To date, 70 of 167 specimens (42% of all ticks) were culture positive for Borrelia-like spirochaetes within eight weeks of inoculation into BSK (a formulation developed for the isolation of B. burgdorferi) media".

You can read an extract here: 1991 - Detecting the Cause of Lyme Disease in Australia; Med Journal of Australia - Detecting the cause of Lyme disease in Australia Med Jnl of Australia 1991

Case 4 ------

In 1998, Clinical Lyme specialists Bernie Hudson and Janet Kitchener-Smith, from NSW outlined in the Australia/New Zealand Journal of Public Health that they have seen 'strikingly identical symptoms from many patients bitten in the northern beaches area of Sydney as those with positive serology from other countries'.

"Denial of the existence of Lyme in Australia based on different symptoms of patients here versus in America is not justifiable and may be hazardous from a treatment perspective, particularly given recent evidence suggesting that the spirochete may exist in Pittwater, NSW.  Scepticicism lies in the fact that the patient who recently tested positive had spent time in Europe 17 months before the onset of symptoms so there is a chance that the infection was gained overseas.  The patient was adamant, however, that he was not bitten by a tick in Europe, but was bitten in Pittwater".

You can read the article here: 1998 - Lyme Disease in Australia; Aust/NZ Journal of Public Health - Lyme Disease in Australia Aust NZ Jnl of Pub Health 1998

Case 5 ------

1998 saw a paper published by Bernie Hudson, Mark Stewart, Virginia Lennox, Masahito Fukunaga, Mihe Yabuki, Heather Macorison and Janet Kitchener-Smith.  Once again this research found evidence of Borrelia burddorferi sensu lato from a clinical specimen in Australia.

As we have outlined before the researchers believe migrating birds from the northern hemisphere to be a possible source of the spread of the disease.

"Most patients with Lyme borreliosis are cured with oral antibiotic therapy given early in the course of the illness, and this treatment should minimise acute neurological and arthritic complications, as well as progression to chronic disease.  We recommend sensible use of empirical therapy.  Unfortunately, for patients who do not develop the typical erythema migrans skin lesion, early diagnosis may not be possible".

You can read the article here: 1998 - Culture Positive Lyme Borreliosis; Hudson Medical Journal of Australia - Culture positive lyme borreliosis Hudson Med Jnl Aust 1998