German clinic offer “cure” for desperate Australians struck down with Lyme disease
BY JULIE CROSS
AUGUST 15, 2014 THE COURIER MAIL
Tick embedded in skin of leg. Credit: Ashley Prytherch, Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust/Wellcome Awards
Australians suffering from a chronic life-threatening disease spread by ticks are flying to Germany and spending thousands of dollars for pioneering treatment.
Lyme disease is not recognised in Australia, making it difficult to get a proper diagnosis or treatment.
It often means that sufferers do not know they have the disease until it has reached a chronic stage.
If detected in the first few weeks, it can be treated with a short course of antibiotics, but if left patients need two years of antibiotics, which doctors here are reluctant to prescribe because of the controversial status of the disease.
Now hundreds of Australians are flocking to clinics in Germany where they are offering the latest treatment for the disease, with treatment starting at $21,000.
Avalon, pictured, is notorious for ticks in Australia, along with the whole of the northern beaches and other areas of Sydney’s coastline.
While Lyme disease is recognised in the US and across Europe, Australian medical chiefs say there is no evidence that ticks in Australia are carrying the borrelia bacteria that causes Lyme, claiming victims must have been bitten by ticks abroad.
However, many sufferers dispute this and until it is recognised in Australia, they say there will continue to be inadequate testing and a lack of awareness in the medical community and among the public.
Fréderika Montpetit from the St George Clinic in Germany said they had already treated 54 Australians this year and have 82 scheduled before the end of 2014, with new requests daily.
“We are happy to see that the media is getting involved, hopefully this will help the Lyme patients in their struggle for recognition of this horrible disease,” she said.
Pictured: An adult female tick.
Kate Wood who lives on the northern beaches, a well known hotspot for ticks, had treatment at the clinic last year.
She was just 17 and an elite runner competing internationally when she returned from a camping trip near Tamworth and felt something itchy on her back.
She asked her friend to check. It was a tick.
Mrs Wood, now 33, was rushed to hospital to have it removed, but no-one tested her for Lyme disease or even mentioned it.
She then had a bad bout of flu. From then on it was one thing after another. Not long after she was diagnosed with glandular fever, went through periods of extreme fatigue, suffered heart palpitations, migraines and swollen joints.
Electron microscope images of a tick.
“I went from being extremely fit and healthy to feeling sick a lot of the time,” said Mrs Wood, a chiropractor, from Church Point.
Despite visits to numerous doctors no-one diagnosed her with Lyme disease.
Kate Wood, a chiropractor on the northern beaches, who sought treatment for Lyme disease in Germany.
Then, in 2012 she was bitten by another tick, this time near her home on the northern beaches. Soon after her hair started falling out, she suffered brain fog and then her eyesight started to deteriorate. At her worst she reckons she lost 90 per cent of her vision.
After visiting another doctor who said she had been noticing some “weird things happening to people on the northern beaches”, her bloods were sent to the US and came back positive for Lyme disease.
In July last year, Mrs Wood and her husband Nick, 37, went to Germany for treatment, which including flights and accommodation cost around $78,000.
The treatment involves the patient undergoing an anaesthetic and their body being heated to a temperature of 42 degrees celsius. The borellia bacteria dies at 41.5 degrees celsius.
She now feels 100 per cent healthy and is three months pregnant.
“I’ve not even had a cold since my treatment,” said Mrs Wood.
“But I feel I’ve been robbed of the best years of my life.”"
I am involved in fighting LYME DISEASE & other tick-borne co-infections.
I am a 29 y/o Australian, never traveled overseas.
Tick bite gave me a bulls-eye rash, arthritis, & a cascade of seemingly unrelated symptoms.
Over a decade misdiagnosed and unaware of Lyme Disease epidemic in Australia which is currently denied by the Governments and their agencies, resulting in poor access to inaccurate tests, while simultaneously demanding patient data to change policy to fund treatment for sufferers, yet denying positive tests from international blood labs.
I hope that others gain awareness from my experiences.
After a year on appropriate Chronic Lyme treatment, I am now getting my life back!
"Spontaneous, energetic and innovative lateral thinker...Constantly questioning and seeking ways to improve whatever am involved in."
ENTP personality type using Jung–Myers–Briggs instrument (McGuiness 2004).