Pioneer Highland project to make Lyme disease diagnosis easier

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A collaboration between NHS Highland and Pfizer Inc. is aiming to make the diagnosis of Lyme Disease easier and improve consistency in the way the disease is managed.

The Lyme Disease General Practice Sentinel Scheme, which is being funded by Pfizer Inc., is a pilot project which will deliver a Lyme specific training package to 15 GP practices across Highland who have agreed to support the initiative.

These practices will be provided with a digital tool, specially developed by local informatics experts Albasoft Ltd, that will help guide clinicians through a consultation when Lyme Disease is suspected or has been confirmed via a blood test.

Dr James Douglas, GP with NHS Highland and the Sentinel Scheme Project lead clinician, said: ‘Lyme Disease can develop if someone is bitten by a tick infected with the Lyme causing bacteria. While it can be difficult to diagnose it can be easily cured with antibiotics if diagnosed early.

‘However, patients with Lyme Disease often visit their GP with a rash that can vary widely in its presentation, or with a range of vague and seemingly unrelated symptoms. Patients also often have no recall of a tick bite.

‘Although we know Lyme Disease is relatively common in Scotland, information on exactly how many patients are getting early stage Lyme each year is unclear. It is our expectation that this project will give the most accurate estimate to date of the number of new cases of early Lyme Disease in our region.’

It is also hoped the project may also help lead to better understanding of the epidemiology of Lyme Disease by giving information on groups of people who are at increased risk of acquiring it and would benefit from Lyme prevention education.

A training package and digital tool will also be evaluated to see if it can help doctors diagnose Lyme Disease earlier.

Dr Douglas added: ‘It is important that we have a clear understanding of the scale of the problem and that we can identify risk factors associated with Lyme Disease. This will help direct public education in the prevention of Lyme Disease and aid early diagnosis so that people can enjoy and gain health benefits from outdoor activity while minimising the risk of Lyme.’

It is hoped the project will be rolled out across Scotland and parts of England in 2022.