15 April 2016

Rada Rouse

Dr Richard Schloeffel, who describes himself as a wholistic GP specialising in chronic and complex disorders, says denialism over a Lyme-like disease in Australia is leaving patients frightened and without appropriate care.

He told the launch of a Lyme disease Parliamentary Friendship Group recently that Lyme disease was the fastest growing tick-borne illness in the world, affecting 300,000 Americans a year.

Emerging research suggests “it’s sexually transmitted, it’s congenitally transmitted from mother to babies and I think it’s contaminating our blood transfusion service,” he told the launch.

In a submission to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee inquiry into emerging tick-borne infection causing Lyme-like illness, which held public hearings in Perth on Thursday, Dr Schloeffel says the term “Lyme disease” should be dropped in the context of Australian transmission and replaced with another term such as “Borreliosis and co-infection with multi system disorder”.

Dr Schloeffel, who is president of the Australian Chronic Infectious Diseases Society, says Australia is facing a hidden epidemic akin to the AIDS epidemic in the 80s.

ACID members have treated about 4000 patients with Lyme-like illness, and are currently treating about 1500, he says.

He’s called for GPs treating chronic disorders which may be linked to “stealth infections” to be supported by the medical community rather than being threatened with restrictions over treatments, which might include long-term antibiotics.

However infectious diseases physician and microbiologist Professor Peter Collignon has told the inquiry, in a written submission, that evidence from reputable US sources suggests there’s little or no benefit in patients with Lyme-like illness being treated with prolonged antibiotic therapy.

He cites the problem of antibiotic resistance and says intravenous therapy is particularly dangerous, carrying a threat of potentially fatal blood steam infections.

Professor Collignon, who is executive director of ACT Pathology, says there’s no compelling evidence of Lyme disease in Australia but this doesn’t mean people haven’t acquired infections from ticks, including Rickettsiae, or undiscovered bacteria or viruses.

“I think we need to keep an open mind about finding new viruses or bacteria in ticks and other insects that might cause either short term or ongoing infections or symptoms,” he writes.

The inquiry has received 821 submissions, many of which are confidential.

Last Reviewed: 15/04/2016

Medical Observer