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Byron Shire
February 26, 2021

Tick-borne disease still unrecognised

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Learning about ticks will help you avoid them.
There is no specific test for the tick-borne disease borrelia in Australia. Photo supplied

Francene Lee Taylor

Following the recent senate inquiry into Lyme disease, NSW central coast veterinarian Dr John Curnow has come forward with some key information that may prove to be the missing link in the Australian Lyme disease debate.

In Australia today, thousands of people who show Lyme-like symptoms are without medical help and too often shunned by the medical profession itself, who deny the existence of the disease altogether.

The question asked repeatedly by Australian patients and their families is: why can’t they be tested for the disease here, instead of having to travel overseas, usually at great cost and detriment to their already failing health?

Dr Curnow says, ‘The current testing done for Lyme disease in Australia is only for the Lyme Borrelia species of the disease, whose home is the eastern seaboard of the United States. [It’s] not for the other species of Borrelia, which are likely to be endemic here on this continent.’s


Because of this, most patients tested in Australia are left undiagnosed and untreated.

‘The infection carried by ticks differs from country to country and we need a test specifically for Australia,’ says Dr Curnow.

As one of the country’s leading experts on tick- and vector-borne diseases, Dr Curnow should know; many of his key findings have been published in leading scientific journals, including the prestigious Nature.

Dr Curnow was working as a vet in 1982 when the disease was first noticed in Australia and he has startling previously unknown information.

He says that for six years patients were being treated and were recovering, but that in 1988, Australian authorities decided to use the US test to establish if people had the disease.

‘Between 1988 and 1994, the Westmead Laboratory tested four thousand, three hundred and seventy-eight local patients with symptoms of the disease and only seventy-eight tested positive.

‘At this stage, alarm bells should have been ringing and the medical profession should have been researching to find why people with obvious symptoms were testing negative.

‘For the next 22 years they continued with the American test and continued to get negative results. They used these results to deny patients any treatment,’ says Dr Curnow.

John aded, ‘The Karl McManus Foundation, a Sydney-based charity supporting Lyme victims, is advocating for better testing and funding research at the Sydney University Tick-Borne Diseases Unit.

‘What we need more than ever is a serious public debate following the recent senate inquiry.

‘The vital testing process should be reassessed and ultimately uncomfortable questions should be asked that the medical establishment seems to be avoiding.’

And there is good reason.

If Dr Curnow’s revelations prove to be correct, the implications for cases of medical negligence could be immense with thousands of Australians suffering owing to this great oversight.

Know thy parasite month

May is world Lyme disease month, and Francene Lee Taylor will be sharing information on tick awareness, prevention and safe removal of ticks at the following locations:

Mullumbimby Santos Organics, Wednesday May 10 from 10am.

Go Vita, Byron Bay, May 12 from 10am.

Francene Lee Taylor has suffered with tick-borne diseases (including Lyme disease) for the past 12 years. Joining Francene for these events will be Sherria Powell, who has driven halfway around Australia raising awareness. All money raised goes to the Karl McManus Foundation.

AMA’s position on Lyme disease

A spokesperson from the AMA told The Echo they follow the advice of the Australian government’s chief medical officer.

‘[The advice is that] the organism that causes Lyme disease has not been found in Australia, and that many Australian patients have not travelled overseas to endemic areas, so the likelihood that they have Lyme disease is very low.’

AMA vice-president Dr Tony Bartone also recently said there could be a number of competing explanations for conditions that resemble Lyme disease. He told the www.theadvocate.com.au, ‘We’ve got to still deal with the facts and evidence-based medicine, but that shouldn’t prevent us from being compassionate,’ he said.

The chief medical officer’s statement from October last year can be found at www.health.gov.au/lyme-disease#statement-cmo.

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  1. Ross River Fever is equally ignored. Tick born illness is real and extremely debilitating. Where are our farmer federations on this issue?

  2. The published work by Dr Michelle Wills continues to be ignored. It has been made available to the review committee. It clearly supports the view of Dr Curnow.

  3. What part of “78 tested positive” do these idiots (AMA, CMO, NHMRC) not understand.
    The standard procedure in rebutting a scientific paper (e.g. Michelle Wills’ PhD) is to replicate the process exactly and show different results. Russell and Doggett did not do this (in fact the excuse was raised that Wills had not published despite the fact that her thesis was available in Newcastle Uni Library).
    If Wills procedures had been followed exactly, Russell and Doggett would probably have found exactly the same results. Part of the procedure was sampling fed ticks from a specific geographic area.The key part of the results was the verification of the identity of the spirochaetes found by the leading US researcher at the time.

  4. I was tested eventually in 23011 with bioresonance and had over 60 recognised Lyme and co infections organisms . I was bitten by a mosquito in 2004 and was very very ill with many viruses which were recognised including EBV, CMV and Ross River but it took until 2011 to have the rash recognised as Lyme Disease in the UK by which time I was extremely immune suppressed and showing what I now know to be classic chronic Lyme disease. Much of the testing is still unreliable but I had an MRI Neuro quadrant scan which showed both Lyme and Mold. Why would I have any faith in the Australian Medical scenario?
    I have no time for Australian doctors regarding this illness except my Lyme literate GP and have sought help from DR D Klinghardt an expert, who has had had Lyme disease, a clinic in Germany and a clinic in Cyprus . It is time Greg Hunt got onto this problem, but I am not waiting around for the AMA to wake up.

  5. I was bitten in Scotland in 1988, and developed the Bullseye rash! I’ve suffered with musculoskeletal pain and a list of other complaints ever since , and I’m currently unable to work.
    Is there any way to get treated, if you’ve been bitten overseas- in Australia?


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