Lyme dis­ease go­ing un­der­de­tected across Canada

Mount Al­li­son re­searcher, Cal­gary doc­tor pub­lish study on di­ag­noses num­bers of de­bil­i­tat­ing dis­ease

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con­tentious dis­ease is the num­ber of Cana­di­ans who are in­fected,” says Lloyd. “There has been an enor­mous dis­crep­ancy between the ex­pe­ri­ences of peo­ple in af­fected com­mu­ni­ties through­out Canada and the of­fi­cial num­bers of those af­fected with Lyme dis­ease. If ev­ery­one is work­ing from the same base­line in­for­ma­tion we can per­haps start to move for­ward to deal­ing with this dis­ease.”

Lyme dis­ease is a se­ri­ous and de­bil­i­tat­ing bac­te­rial in­fec­tion that can re­sult from the bite of an in­fected tick. As ticks, par­tic­u­larly black-legged ticks, in­crease in num­bers and spread into new parts of Canada, this dis­ease is gar­ner­ing more at­ten­tion in the coun­try and af­fect­ing more and more in­di­vid­u­als.

Lloyd and Hawkins an­a­lyzed three in­de­pen­dent data sets – U.S. pub­lic health data, Cana­dian pub­lic health data, and the num­ber of dogs with a Lyme dis­ease in­fec­tion to gen­er­ate an es­ti­mate of the true num­ber of Cana­di­ans suf­fer­ing from this dis­ease.

New Brunswick, where Lloyd’s lab is lo­cated and where Lyme dis­ease is emerg­ing, was used as a case study, but the re­sults are ap­pli­ca­ble across Canada.

Their re­sults showed an un­der­de­tec­tion of Lyme dis­ease across all data sets. The pair es­ti­mate only between three and four per cent of cases are be­ing doc­u­mented in Canada.

“As a doc­tor, what wor­ries me the most about this work is the fate of those peo­ple who are in­fected but not di­ag­nosed,” says Hawkins, site lead for Gen­eral In­ter­nal Medicine at South Health Cam­pus in Cal­gary. “We know that the out­come for un­treated Lyme dis­ease pa­tients is not good.”

Lloyd has been study­ing ticks and Lyme dis­ease over the past five years and con­tracted Lyme dis­ease her­self when bit­ten by a tick in her yard. Hawkins treats Lyme pa­tients from across Canada.

Lloyd and Hawkins say ad­dress­ing dis­crep­an­cies around the num­ber of peo­ple af­fected by Lyme dis­ease is a be­gin­ning step in help­ing those af­fected ob­tain treat­ment.

“This study shows the value of in­de­pen­dent re­search and the need to ad­dress the ex­pe­ri­ences of all Cana­di­ans with the dis­ease, not just the mi­nor­ity that are cap­tured by con­ven­tional Cana­dian test­ing,” says Lloyd.

Lloyd and Hawkins’ study is avail­able at: https://www.mdpi. com/2227-9032/6/4/125


Mount Al­li­son bi­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor Vett Lloyd has been study­ing ticks and Lyme dis­ease for the past five years af­ter con­tract­ing the dis­ease her­self.

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