The Australian Government Department of Health welcomes the exciting and ground-breaking research publication from Professor Peter Irwin and his team from Murdoch University.
This Australian Research Council funded work published in Parasites and Vectors (Inhibition of the endosymbiont "Candidatus Midichloria mitochondrii" during 16S rRNA gene profiling reveals potential pathogens in Ixodes ticks from Australia) has demonstrated for the first time a new blocking primer technique to quench inhibitory behaviour of the endosymbiont Candidatus Midichloria mitochondrii which occurs in large quantities in the tick microbiome and masks the presence of a potentially novel bacterium in the genus Candidatus Neoehrlichia. These findings reveal a new technique that can be used to detect bacterial DNA from ticks.
While no Lyme disease associated bacteria were found in Australian ticks, the Murdoch team readily detected Lyme disease bacterial DNA in the ticks from Germany.
In addition, in one Australian tick collected from a wild echidna, out of a sample of 196 ticks, the DNA from a Borrelia sp. associated with relapsing fever was detected.
The department welcomes this work and will remain engaged with Prof. Irwin to consider the implications of this research for human health in Australia. The department anticipates research on ticks taken from humans will be published later in 2015.
The Chief Medical Officer, Prof. Baggoley, had an opportunity to speak with Prof. Irwin on Wednesday 1 July. Prof. Irwin emphasised that it is not yet appropriate to link the bacteria he found in the ticks to them causing disease in humans. He said, however, it is reasonable to consider a possible link between bacteria and disease if the bacteria which are found have a close relationship to known pathogens. Nothing can be assumed without further research.
Even though the Chief Medical Officer’s Clinical Advisory Committee on Lyme Disease (CACLD) has ceased, the Australian Government Department of Health will maintain an interest in an Australian Lyme disease-like syndrome. This website will provide updates on the department’s work and relevant research findings on Australian Lyme disease-like syndrome.
Progress Report against the CACLD Terms of Reference
The Progress Report from the Chief Medical Officer that details the activity achieved against each of the CACLD’s terms of reference can be accessed below.
The Department of Health contracted an expert in microbiology to conduct a Scoping Study to identify the research needs for an investigation into whether a causative tick borne microorganism for Lyme disease exists in Australia.
The Scoping Study can be accessed below.
Department of Health’s Response to the Scoping Study
In November 2013, the Department of Health sought public comment on the Scoping Study requesting that comments focus on the research programmes. Twenty-four submissions were received, along with eight expressions of support for the Lyme Disease Association of Australia’s submission and four letters from people describing their personal situations (36 submissions in total). The department considered each submission and has prepared a response to the Scoping Study.
The Department of Health’s response to the Scoping Study can be accessed below:
Consolidated List of Research Projects
The Department of Health, in consultation with the CACLD and other clinical experts has identified a number of research projects that would assist in clarifying the Australian Lyme disease-like syndrome.
The consolidated list of research projects can be assessed below:
Lyme Disease Treatment Round Table
The Department of Health hosted the Lyme Disease Treatment Round Table Meeting on Tuesday 27 May 2014. The outcomes can be accessed below:
Department of Health Media Statement
The Department of Health issued a media statement on Lyme Disease in Australia following several requests from the public and media outlets - a copy can be accessed below:
Advice provided by the CACLD, recommendations from the Scoping Study, and outcomes from the Lyme Disease Round Table Meeting have revealed potential research projects that would assist in clarifying the Australian Lyme disease-like syndrome.
The majority of Australian Government health and medical research funding is administered by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The Australian Research Council (ARC) has funded some Special Research Initiatives in the health and medical areas however the ARC does not generally fund medical research. The ARC Medical Research Policy is available on the ARC web site. Researchers may also seek other avenues for funding including the higher education sector, business sector or the private non-profit sector. The Department of Health is not a research funding agency.
The Project Grant scheme is the NHMRC's main avenue of support for individuals and small teams of researchers undertaking biomedical, clinical, public health or health services research in Australian universities, medical schools, hospitals or other research institutions. The Project Grants scheme aims to fund research leading to improved health of all Australians. To achieve this aim the scheme provides support for projects with the following attributes:
- Investigator initiated research across all fields of research, from basic research through to research in clinical and community settings, relevant to health; and
- single investigators or small teams of researchers (up to 10 investigators) and early career researchers (new investigators).
All applications undergo a competitive peer-review process and project grant rounds usually start in December each year. Further information is available on the NHMRC website.
The ARC funds research and researchers under the National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP). As part of its commitment to nurturing the creative abilities and skills of Australia's most promising researchers, the NCGP provides:
- support for the highest-quality research leading to the discovery of new ideas and the advancement of knowledge
- financial assistance towards facilities and equipment that researchers need to be internationally competitive
- support for the training and skills development of the next generation of researchers
- incentives for Australia’s most talented researchers to work in partnership with leading researchers throughout the national innovation system and internationally, and to form alliances with Australian industry
Advice to Clinicians