A SYDNEY woman has been awarded a Supreme Court injunction to have her dead husband tested for a disease the Health Department says does not exist in Australia.
Mualla Akinci’s husband, Karl McManus, died last Wednesday – three years after he was bitten by a tick she says carried Lyme disease, a bacterial infection which, if left untreated, can cause profound neurological damage.
Mr McManus, 43, from Turramurra, was bitten on the left side of his chest during filming for the television show Home and Away in bushland in Waratah Park, northern Sydney. Within six weeks he lost mobility in one of the fingers on his left hand. That quickly spread to paralysis in his left arm and across to his right arm.
Mr McManus was diagnosed with multifocal neuropathy after testing negative for Lyme disease, but Ms Akinci, a pharmacist, insisted he be tested again at clinics in the US and Germany. Both tests returned positive for Lyme disease.
She argues that Australian tests are inadequate because pathologists looks for antibodies in the blood, rather than for proteins in specific bacteria within tissue.
”Lyme doesn’t usually live in the blood. It lives in tissues unless someone’s system is flushed with it so it stands to reason that every test will come back negative,” Ms Akinci said.
The Health Department maintains that no case has been transmitted in Australia and the organisms that cause it – three species of the genus borrelia – are not carried here by wildlife, livestock or their parasites.
The NSW Health Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, said in May there was not enough evidence to support the existence of ticks carrying the borrelia organism.
”Until there is solid evidence to indicate that locally acquired Lyme disease is a significant public health matter in Australia, specific measures to educate the general public or clinicians are difficult to justify,” she said.