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Byron Shire
February 3, 2023

Lyme tests fail patients, says expert

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Contrary to popular belief, ticks in Australia can cause Lyme disease, according to at least one local expert.

Retired vet Dr John Curnow BVSc is calling on Australia’s health authorities to support the Karl Mcmanus Foundation’s research into tick-borne diseases in Australia, saying Lyme disease has been in Australia for decades.

The retired serologist, John Curnow, worked in conjunction with the CSIRO on the epidemiology of tick-borne diseases in NSW. This involved developing and using accurate blood tests for tick-borne diseases in cattle between 1982 and 1988.

In 1988 CSIRO published evidence that identified at least 14 species of Borrelia, including the one that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, but the 1988 study of Australian patients did not test for any other Borrelia species but Lyme disease.

Even today Australian patients are being told they don’t have Borrelia infections because of a study that was done between 1988 and 1994.

‘In this study 4,372 patients with suspected Lyme disease were tested for a specific group of antibodies identified with the eastern USA variety of the Borrelia. The results of this ELISA test showed all but 1.8 per cent of the subjects to be negative for Lyme disease,’ Dr Curnow says.

‘But what about the other 13 species of Borrelia that were identified, but ignored – species for which there are still no specific tests?’

Dr Curnow says patients were told they had negative results for Borrelia infection, and were refused treatment despite relapsing fevers, and other common symptoms of tick-transmitted infections.

Based on this study’s results doctors are still telling patients that there is no Lyme disease in Australia, but Dr Curnow says that the 1988 study and the medical authorities have failed Australian patients.

‘Rather than treating people based on the history of debilitating symptoms and relapsing fevers, patients have been denied treatment for more than 20 years.

‘Patients such as John’s wife could not get treatment because the design of the test study failed them.

‘The testing was not designed for the infections in Australian ticks, and this is where we are today.’

With the growing number of Australians affected Dr Curnow says the health authorities need to urgently fund new research into tick-borne diseases to identify what diseases are in Australian ticks and ensure patients have access to accurate testing and effective treatments.

John Curnow will also be speaking at the Northern Rivers Lyme Network screening of Under Our Skin on Saturday May 31st at 2pm at the Byron Bay Community Centre, Jonson Street, Byron Bay.

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  1. I worked on Thursday Island as a nurse in 1979 and at that time the Qld govt denied that there was any evidence of TB, malaria, or Henson’s disease (leprosy) in the state of Qld Despite the fact that these patients were being treated in the hospital there.

  2. I test positive according to USA Lyme testing. In order to accomplish more research in Australia, my family will be sending local ticks to Murdoch University for their “Investigation into Zoonotic Tick-Borne Diseases in Australia” study. This is backed by Bayer and the Aust Research Council. Visit http://www.tickvectors.com for info on the study, or email [email protected] if you would like a tick kit.

  3. I got the Lyme disease bulls eye rash in 1987 on my upper inner left thigh. I lived on a property Mirriwinni Gardens Aboriginal Academy Nulla Nulla creek rd near Bellbrook via Kempsey NSW. I thought it was an allergic reaction to a tick bite. Ticks were removed off us regularly in our daily shower as we kept a check of each other. I tested positive to Lyme Borellia burgdorferi in Oct 2013. After years of Chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosis.

  4. I tested positive to spotted fever almost 2 years ago – yet i am not able to find a doctor to agree with the findings. i have had 3 biopsies done an all have returned negative results.I am now being treated with a cocktail of medications and hopefully will be rid of it by the end of the month.

  5. So 1.8% of the 4372 tested positive to lyme disease, which is approx. 80 people. Lyme is 1 of 14 strains identified so using the same average for all strains there would be approximate 1120 people with a form of Borreliosis, and it is not unreasonable to assume that one or more of the Borrelia strain are native and likely more prevalent than the Lyme strain which could increase the positive result even more. It is worth mentioning the study has not published the results of companion disease commonly existing in these ticks. the CSRIO report from 1959 that listed Borrelia in a group of at least a dozen other diseases taken from a bandicoot. The varied combination of these diseases is what makes diagnosis difficult because testing for many in often inconclusive in humans also. So we get labelled with various conditions which have no known cause, with no known cure, like MND, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, etc, with which prescribed a cocktail of drugs that try a target symptons only, and often create new issues. This is just the tip of the Iceberg for those of us that know we have Borreliosis through independent testing


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