Fed­eral gov­ern­ment puts cash be­hind Lyme dis­ease re­search

New frame­work will al­low for bet­ter col­lab­o­ra­tion: Philpott

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - TERRY PEDWELL

OT­TAWA — The fed­eral gov­ern­ment is hop­ing a new re­search frame­work will help doc­tors bet­ter di­ag­nose and treat the bal­loon­ing num­ber of Lyme dis­ease cases across Canada.

Health Min­is­ter Jane Philpott in­tro­duced the frame­work Tues­day in the House of Com­mons, and also an­nounced a $4-mil­lion investment to get the re­search net­work up and run­ning.

“The aim of the Lyme dis­ease re­search net­work will be to gen­er­ate new ev­i­dence and data about Lyme dis­ease, about how to im­prove di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment and to help us bet­ter un­der­stand its causes and its trans­mis­sion,” Philpott said.

“We aim to help health pro­fes­sion­als with di­ag­noses and best practices, and we aim to in­crease Cana­di­ans’ aware­ness so that they can take mea­sures to re­duce the pos­si­bil­ity of get­ting Lyme dis­ease.”

In­put from fed­eral, pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial min­istries, as well as pa­tient groups and re­searchers, were con­sid­ered as Ot­tawa looked to de­velop the frame­work, said Philpott.

Just over a month ago, crit­ics were con­demn­ing a draft frame­work put for­ward by the gov­ern­ment, with some re­fer­ring to it as “ridicu­lous.”

They said the draft re­lied on out­dated guide­lines and ig­nored the ex­plo­sion of re­search into Lyme dis­ease over the past decade. Med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als also com­plained that Canada lacked the ca­pac­ity to prop­erly test for the dis­ease.

But while not all crit­ics will be si­lenced, said fed­eral Green party Leader El­iz­a­beth May, she’s sat­is­fied that the re­drawn frame­work will move re­search and un­der­stand­ing of Lyme dis­ease in the right di­rec­tion.

“I’m very re­lieved we have it,” May said Tues­day. “I think there’s been sig­nif­i­cant progress made over the draft is­sued ear­lier in the spring.”

There’s still more to do, she added: “This is not go­ing to be enough for peo­ple who are con­cerned, but I think it’s a very pos­i­tive step that we’ve got­ten here.”

Lyme dis­ease is caused by bac­te­ria trans­mit­ted by the bite of in­fected ticks.

The Pub­lic Health Agency of Canada said there were more than 900 cases of Lyme dis­ease in 2015, up from roughly 140 in 2009. Pre­lim­i­nary num­bers for 2016 sug­gest the over­all num­bers may have lev­elled off for now.

But with the ill­ness be­ing di­ag­nosed in south­ern B.C., Man­i­toba, On­tario, Que­bec, Nova Sco­tia and New Brunswick, some es­ti­mates in­di­cate Canada could see between 10,000 and 20,000 new cases each year, should the ticks that carry the bac­te­ria con­tinue to ex­pand their range into other parts of the coun­try.

Fed­eral health of­fi­cials are partly blam­ing global warm­ing for the dra­matic in­crease in cases.

The con­di­tion has been con­sid­ered a na­tion­ally no­ti­fi­able dis­ease since 2009, mean­ing it has been flagged by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and all prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries as a pri­or­ity for mon­i­tor­ing and con­trol.

ADRIAN WYLD, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Health Min­is­ter Jane Philpott said in­put from fed­eral, pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial min­istries, as well as pa­tient groups and re­searchers, was con­sid­ered to de­velop the frame­work.

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