Public urged to support research into Australian Lyme-like disease

March 15, 2017

(L-R) Professors Peter Irwin and Una Ryan with Dr Charlotte Oskam and Rebecca Vary from the CWA.

Researchers from the Vector and Water Borne Pathogen Research Group (VWBPG) at Murdoch University have launched an initiative aimed at supporting critical research into Australian Lyme-like disease.

Professors Peter Irwin and Una Ryan, co-directors of the VWBPG, said intense public and government concern about the potential for tick-borne disease in Australia has led to a now urgent need for new research using cutting edge, advanced DNA technology in order to properly inform the debate.

“Over the last 30 years recognition of a “Lyme-like” syndrome has emerged, the onset of which has been attributed to people bitten by native Australian ticks,” Professor Irwin said.

“There have been manifestations of an undiagnosed illness causing significant patient distress, with symptoms presenting in a similar fashion to tick-borne diseases overseas.”

Dr Charlotte Oskam, one of the VWBPG team leaders at Murdoch University, said the group has a proven track record in studying bacteria and other microorganisms within Australian ticks, with over 55 years’ experience. Researchers from the VWBPG were also involved in the 2016 Australian Senate parliamentary inquiry, which investigated growing evidence of an emerging tick-borne disease that causes a Lyme-like illness for many Australian patients.

“Our knowledgeable team has been studying ticks for many years, with our unique approach leading to the identification of potential pathogens carried by ticks in Australia,” Dr Oskam added.

“We are seeking the support of the general public to help fund pilot research into screening human specimens from people suffering from locally acquired tick-borne illness for potential microbial candidates for a locally acquired tick-borne illness in Australians.

“Our total funding aim is to reach $100,000 which will fund all three stages of this nationwide project. We have already received a generous donation of $35,000 from the Country Women’s Association (CSA) of NSW and the Lyme Disease Association of Australia (LDAA)”

The LDAA was awarded a $35,000 grant from Country Women’s Association (NSW) in 2016 to put towards research into tick borne illness in Australia.  After considerable analysis of a variety of research proposals it was determined that the progress, method and credibility of the Murdoch University team made them was a standout candidate.

Annette Turner, State President, CWA of NSW said: “We are delighted to support the Lyme Disease Association of Australia and the Murdoch University Veterinary Trust with our donation towards medical research to make a real difference to Australians suffering tick-borne illnesses."

Donations towards the VWBPG’s valuable research can be made online or by contacting the Murdoch University Veterinary Trust.

The VWBPG is also calling for patients with a history of undiagnosed tick-borne illness to be recruited into this pilot study. To find our more, click here.

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