Quebec may not be ready for Lyme disease spike

Researchers warn that ticks are expanding their territory up into Quebec and bringing Lyme disease along with them, a health crisis Quebec may not not ready for.

Climate change is driving ticks further north and bringing with it the bacteria that cause the disease, researcher Tara Moriarty says soon it may be a Quebec wide problem.

"By 2020 it's projected that 80% of the Canadian population living east of the Manitoba border is going to be living in the habitat of these ticks that transmit Lyme disease," says Moriarty a researcher at the Uniersity of Toronto, part of the Lyme Research Network. "So we're going to have a pretty serious problem."

Lyme disease spread by tick bites can cause debilitating headaches stiffness, aches and pains among other symptoms.

It has a tumultuous history of scepticism from the medical community and distrust from patients, a dynamic that poses a challenge to both groups.

Now that the government plans to invest four million dollars towards research, diagnostics, and treatment there is public debate about how that money should be spent.

Lyme patient advocate Jim Wilson with CanLyme believes the money  should be shared among more groups than just the researchers and scientists associated with the LRN.

"Only one network is going to get the funding," says Wilson. "That is a horrible model for such a complex disease."

He takes exception to Moriarty's support of a vaccine that was discontinued in the 90s, and the scientists who are working to put it back on the market.

"We as a patient group are all for a good vaccine," he says. "This I don't know is the right one."

The vaccine LYMErix was available in the 90s and early 2000s until a series of lawsuits alleging harmful side affects tarnished it's reputation.

Moriarty says studies of the affects of LYMErix show that symptoms like arthritis that patients reported came in at the same rate as the unvaccinated population, but doubts any company would manufacture it again because of the scare.

She says $4 million is a very small seed of funding for a whole network to research, diagnose, and treat the amount of Lyme disease they expect to proliferate in Canada in coming years.