Linking tick bites with a Lyme-like disease

April 26, 2017

Professor Una Ryan

Despite growing evidence of a Lyme-like disease in Australia, the cause of the condition remains a mystery.

Professor Una Ryan is part of the Vector and Waterborne Pathogens group at Murdoch University who are investigating the link between this mysterious illness and the increasing number of people attributing the symptoms to tick bites.

“The undetermined disease usually presents as acute flu-like symptoms including headache, fever, and fatigue that can persist for weeks to months,” Professor Ryan said.

“This may develop into a severe chronic illness that can include arthritis, chronic migraine, and systemic inflammatory syndrome.

“There is a considerable body of anecdotal evidence connecting tick bites to the symptoms. However, little has been documented about microorganisms harboured within Australian native ticks or their pathogenic potential.”

Professor Ryan and her colleagues have identified five new bacterial species in ticks, which are closely related to, but distinctly different from tick-borne bacterial pathogens in the northern hemisphere.

The team is currently using Next Generation Sequencing of the microbes in human-biting Australian ticks to determine if these bacteria could be the cause of Lyme-like Disease in Australia.

Professor Una Ryan will be presenting a talk entitled “Lyme-Like disease in Australia – A Tick-Borne Illness?” at Western Australia’s premier media research conference, Science on the Swan, on 2 May.

Registration details and more information is available at

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