Tick saliva proteins provide hope for Lyme cure

THE discovery of how proteins in tick saliva stop a person's immune system could be they key to treating debilitating Lyme disease that affects many Northern Rivers residents.

Scientists from Monash University conducted a joint-study with colleagues from Oxford University which was published in the latest edition of the Nature Structural and Molecular Biology journal.

When a tick bites a person it injects a substance that blocks their immune receptors, allowing the animal to feed on the host's blood.

Monash University Associate Professor Hans Emlund said the study revealed how ticks can evade a humans immune system.

"They need to do that to be able to bite and feed on their targets for prolonged periods of time," he said.

"These proteins that the ticks evolved, they can be used to inhibit a system called complement and this system can run amok in a number of diseased conditions including some life threatening blood disorders and some rare genetic kidney disorders."

Many Northern Rivers Lyme sufferers are frustrated with doctors who are reluctant to, or refuse to diagnose, or treat their illness.

Upper Main Arm resident Mahalia Bennett-White, 21, recently told the Northern Star she contracted what she believed was Lyme two years ago and was "laughed at" by one doctor until she found a GP willing to treat her.

Her symptoms included lethargy, nausea, and lack of appetite for prolonged periods.

"She just knocked me back straight away and laughed at me, it feels really bad having someone do that to you," Ms Bennett-White said.

"I have had a neighbour who suffers from Lyme disease quite badly.

"She got me to her doctor and got me on some antibiotics and medication and got me back to health in two to three months."

A current senate enquiry into Lyme disease investigating the existence of the disease and how doctors treat patients with the illness has received more than 350 submissions.

The enquiry is due to report its findings in June.



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