Science says Australia doesn't have Lyme disease

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The good news for Australians suffering from flu-like symptoms such as headache, fever, chills and unexplained fatigue is that you don’t have Lyme disease.

New research by the Australian National University (ANU) has concluded that the bacterial illness cannot be contracted in Australia, despite long-running beliefs and advocacy, which even led to a Senate inquiry, to the contrary.

Professor Peter Collignon, from ANU’s Medical School, and ACT Pathology, disputes claims by some people and advocacy groups that the disease can be transmitted by ticks in Australia.

Whatever their ailment, it’s not Lyme disease, because Australia doesn’t appear to have ticks capable of hosting the bacterial species that causes the illness, Collignon and his colleagues conclude in research published in the Medical Journal of Australia .

Anyone diagnosed with Lyme disease diagnosed in Australia has acquired it overseas.

The conclusion also has a profound impact on the way people with the symptoms are treated. Antibiotics should not be used, Collignon said.

“Antibiotic resistance resulting from the unnecessary and prolonged use of broad spectrum antibiotics is a major problem. Treating patients with so-called Lyme-like disease with prolonged intravenous or oral antibiotic therapy is unjustifiable and unethical, and is likely to do much more harm than good,” he said.

Professor Collignon called for increased research on patients with chronic symptoms, which may help to identify new viruses and bacterial pathogens in ticks, animals and people in Australia.

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