For those who haven't heard of it, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by tick bites, with between 900 and 1000 confirmed cases each year in the UK. It can lead to serious health issues if left untreated, so raising awareness of this potentially harmful illness (and how to avoid it) with GPs and other health professionals, as well as members of the public, has been very important to us at PHE’s Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory (RIPL).
This year, for the first time, we hosted the PHE Lyme Conference in London, with the Countess of Mar giving her support to the conference in her welcoming address and closing remarks. The conference featured speakers such as Dr Matthew Dryden, a consultant microbiologist at Winchester's Royal Hampshire County Hospital (who worked with PHE to set up the UK’s first Lyme clinic in September), as well as representatives from Lyme disease support groups.
The event provided us, our health profession colleagues and many others with an interest in Lyme with the opportunity to listen to and engage with the many different people involved in the wide spectrum of Lyme disease detection and treatment, from members of the public, to GPs and clinicians and Lyme disease support groups.
At RIPL, we provide reference diagnostic services for a variety of pathogens (organisms that can cause illness in people) and provide clinical advice through our helpline for health professionals. We also continue to actively develop our testing procedures and methodologies further, as we strive to maintain the evidence base needed to be able to provide sound advice, and ultimately, to influence people’s health for the better.
In doing so, however, we put tremendous value on being able to draw on all the different elements brought together in combating such a potentially debilitating illness through engagement efforts such as the conference. The event, and even the preparation prior to the event taking place, has already proved invaluable in our attempts to assess the different requirements, needs, gaps in services and concerns people may have regarding the detection and treatment of Lyme.
We had the opportunity to listen to talks given by leaders in their respective fields, from tick ecologists to respected microbiologists, and we gained invaluable insights as to the latest developments regarding Lyme disease, all vital in ensuring the services we provide continue to be the best they can possibly be. It is in continuing to work together, drawing on all our various strengths as individuals, organisations and other public bodies, that we will find the best possible outcomes for those affected by Lyme disease.
We would like to thank everyone who spoke at the event and chaired the sessions, and we are grateful to those who took the time and effort to attend. Unfortunately this time we could not accommodate everyone who expressed an interest and we would encourage them to continue to engage with us. Whilst Lyme disease is one of many illnesses afflicting people that we investigate, we remain committed to ensuring we continue to provide evidence-based services and guidance in matters of public health.