Lyme Disease Mystery (03:05)
Patients describe symptoms of chronic illness they believe is Lyme disease—not yet present in Australia. Native Australian mammals host ticks with unique microbiomes. Professor Peter Irwin believes they may transmit unidentified infections.
Australian Tick Research (04:38)
Ticks carry the greatest diversity of disease-causing microbes of any blood sucking arthropods; species that bite humans include paralysis and kangaroo ticks. Alex Gofton explains how his lab collects and analyzes DNA from pathogenic bacteria. Professor Eddie Holmes looks for viruses in ticks.
Contracting Lyme Disease Overseas (03:31)
Singer Seren Spain was bitten by a European tick while traveling in England and experienced symptoms a month later. Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria cause Lyme disease; a bulls-eye rash occurs in 50% of cases and they are treated with antibiotics early on.
Delays in Diagnosing Lyme Disease (04:15)
Dr. Bernie Hudson's Sydney lab tests for Lyme disease. Early treatment is crucial for recovery, but there is no scientific evidence that it occurs naturally in Australia. Members of a Perth support group suffer chronic symptoms; many do not recall a tick bite. One woman describes her eventual diagnosis.
Lyme Disease Controversy (02:34)
Medical authorities deny chronic Lyme exists because it is not caused by an ongoing infection. Dr. Eva Sapi found that Borrelia form defensive colonies called biofilms— explaining why antibiotics are not always effective. The cause of chronic symptoms is unknown.
Diagnosing Lyme Disease (03:38)
A biopsy matching tick microbes to human microbes is the most accurate diagnosis, followed by a DNA test and then a blood test. Serology is the least accurate method because there are no antibodies in early disease phases. Dr. Stephen Graves explains how a Western blot serological test works.
Patient Predicament (02:48)
People with Lyme-like symptoms testing negative in Australia often get tested overseas, but there is no native Borrelia organism. False positives from cross-reactions from other bacteria are also possible. Dogs have tested negative for Lyme Borrelia.
Ongoing Lyme Disease Research (04:10)
Australia's National Serology Reference Lab is checking the reliability of Lyme disease blood tests. Sapi's lab has confirmed that Borrelia can form biofilms in the heart, brain, and kidneys. Irwin's lab has found new Borrelia bacteria in ticks taken from echidnas, but it does not appear to cause Lyme disease. Holmes' lab has found a new virus that resembles the Bourbon virus. People suffering from Lyme-like illness hope for recognition and treatment.
Credits: Toxic Ticks—Catalyst (04:22)
Credits: Toxic Ticks—Catalyst
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