Lord Mawhinney – 2016 Parliamentary Question to the Department of Health

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Lord Mawhinney on 2016-01-27.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of how many people in the UK have Lyme disease.

Lord Prior of Brampton

It is not practical to eradicate Lyme disease in the United Kingdom through treatment of human cases, therefore no cost estimate has been made. The disease is endemic in much of the small mammal and bird population in the UK, and is spread to humans by the bite of infected ticks which have fed on these animals. The number of human cases can be reduced by raising public awareness of how to avoid tick bites, and by environmental measures in public places to reduce the long grass and scrub which harbour ticks.

The number of laboratory confirmed cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales varies annually, in 2013 there were 878 and in 2014 there were 730, but the majority of diagnoses are made clinically by general practitioners and those figures are not recorded. Patients with late or complicated Lyme disease may be diagnosed in a variety of specialist clinics, and the numbers are not recorded. Based on the clinical information supplied with the laboratory request, only a small proportion of the annual number of cases fall into this category.

The Health Protection Research Unit of the University of Liverpool in partnership with Public Health England (PHE) has funding from the National Institute of Health Research for research into Lyme disease, covering diagnostics and biomarkers and public awareness. PHE is working on clinically linked studies for diagnostics with the Czech Republic, as no single centre in the UK has sufficient patients for a suitable study; funding for this work is not yet in place. PHE undertakes limited studies on ticks and Lyme disease in the UK. The Research Councils fund some additional work on ticks and the environment.