So, you think you’ve got a tick borne disease (TBD) such as Lyme, other Borrelia species, Bartonella, Babesia, Rickettsia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma or any other icky thing that ticks (and other insect biters) can transmit? You’d like to find out how to do the testing for Lyme in Australia.
The first thing to remember, is that lyme is still considered a clinical diagnosis. Which means that a lyme literate doctor can officially “diagnose” you based on your history of tick bites and your current symptoms.
But that’s not very reassuring when you see another doctor who says you that don’t have Lyme (or other tick disease) because the chronic form doesn’t exist, or there’s no lyme in Australian ticks or some other version of the common nonsense spouted but the authorities.
Forgive me here if I’m a coming across as a little jaded about this issue.
Because AUSTRALIAN TICKS HAVE BORRELIA and lots of other nasty infections that make humans sick!!!
If you’d like to learn more about Aussie Borrelia- check out my article here but don’t just want to take my word for it, Dr Mualla McManus shows you how long its been around here (since 1822! If you don’t want to check out that link right now).
But that’s beside the point.
You’re here to find out to test for it at a medical laboratory. You want proof to confirm your suspicions or your doctors diagnosis. You might even want to try SOT and to do that you need a recent blood test access to the treatment.
There are 5 main options at your disposal.
If you prefer to learn by hearing or seeing information, it’s in the video, otherwise scroll down to read more about the options for Lyme disease testing in Australia.
Lyme disease testing in Australia- Laboratorys
1. Local Pathology lab
Your local GP can write a simple IgG, IgM antibody blood test from any of the major pathology labs. It’s not very accurate as Borrelias are intelligent and they adapt the host immune response so that antibodies aren’t formed. But for a recent bite and recent onset of symptoms, it’s a cheap and quick way of testing that might yield useful information. You can also ask for the other common infections too. Rickettsia, Anaplasma and Ehrlichia can be found fairly often with this type of test.
2. Australian Biologics
You can order a blood test yourself from Australian Biologics. You can also send in the tick itself if you kept it to see what it harboured.
The drawback is that they are only testing for a very few species of tick borne diseases and none of the common subspecies. They’re also using test types that result in a lot of false negatives. So it would be easy to miss an infection when testing with this lab. That could cost you a lot of time and health, while you waste time trying to find another diagnosis. To access to the better test types with this lab, you’re spending the kind of money you spend at international labs with better test types and more species types.
3. Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory (ARRL)
Your GP can request “ALL TESTS” from ARRL. This is the only lab in Australia covered by medicare, so if your GP writes that it is medicare rebatable, you’ll be rebated half the test fee. If you have medicare you’ll only be out of pocket a few hundred dollars.
ARRL do test for a good range of TBD, using some good test methods, and some less accurate ones. “All tests” will get you PCR (to search for the infections DNA) antibody testing and culture.
Unfortunately many of the TBD’s don’t culture well. So trying to grow them in culture medium on a Petri dish is unlikely to give you any information, but “all tests” is the cheapest way of testing with ARRL, so there’s no harm in getting those results too.
Because of the price point and the number of infections tested, I see value in using this lab as a first line of questioning. They’re good at picking up some of the co-infections even if they do often miss Borellia infections. They only look for B. burgdorferi (Lyme itself) and none of the other Borrelia species that Aussie ticks have. That allows a lot of useful information to fall through the net.
Knowing which co-infections you have, helps you to determine your treatments options and gives you more information if you recover somewhat and then plateau.
Overseas labs. Novel Australian Borrelia species can be more like the European species, so I generally use Armin Labs for an Australian infection.
4. Armin Labs
Armin– this lab offers a full range of testing for TBD with many less common species tested. There are lots of different types of tests available and they have different usefulness based on how long you have been sick. I like the level of customisation available at this lab. You can also request some immune markers that are hard to order in Australia such as CD57+.
To order from Armin, become a member of the Karl McManus Foundation (its free) and you’ll get 20% off your Armin testing. Depending on which tests you order you’ll pay between a few hundred- to some thousands in EURO. So the 20% discount does add up to real savings quickly.
5. If however, you contracted an infection overseas or your symptoms look very much like traditional Lyme (which is common if you got bitten by a tick that lived between Sydney and Noosa), you might be better to choose one of the American labs:
IGeneX– you can order yourself. To get a full panel and co-infection testing you’re looking at premium pricing with this lab, the test is multiple thousands and a USD exchange rate.
DNA connexions– you can order yourself, it’s PCR testing from a urine sample only. They test a good range of Borrelia, Bartonella and Babesia species. Less of the rickettsias though which are common in Australian patients. 1/3 of the price of IGeneX, but only using urine which has limitations.
Galaxy– you are now able to order this yourself. They’re using protein markers in urine and a Western Blot. Which aren’t in my opinion the best currently available. Pricing is 1/2 IGeneX but still a few thousand AUD.
Even knowing about the options for Lyme disease testing in Australia, it’s still a confusing minefield to navigate. You’re welcome to book one of my diagnosis plans to help you choose the right test and prepare for the test correctly to optimise your chances of finding these evasive infections.
Briana Gunn is a qualified Naturopath who spends her days helping her patients rebuild their health from TBD and CIRS.