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Lyme disease in the UK

Lyme disease is a relatively rare infection in the UK, with about 2,000 to 3,000 cases diagnosed per year. But this summer research published in the BMJ Open claimed that UK cases of Lyme disease may be three times higher than previously estimated. Concerns have been raised about the accuracy of the UK blood tests used to diagnose cases of Lyme disease and how they compare to those available abroad, with claims that numerous patients are living with a chronic form of Lyme disease and have failed to have been correctly diagnosed.

However, experts are concerned that this is not an accurate depiction of the Lyme disease situation in the UK and we have invited them to the SMC to discuss the state of the evidence on the number of Lyme disease cases and to discuss the controversy around the tests and diagnosis.

Please note this is a background briefing, so there is no specific news peg – but this is an opportunity to hear from experts researching and treating Lyme disease, and to have your questions answered.


Journalists came to the SMC to hear the scientists and clinicians discuss aspects such as:

  • How do we estimate cases of Lyme disease and are current estimates likely to be too low?
  • Are case of Lyme disease on the rise in the UK? Why? Is climate change having an impact?
  • What is Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (‘Chronic Lyme’)? How does it fit in with CFS/ME?
  • How is Lyme disease diagnosed? How good are the tests? How do they differ from those used abroad?
  • What is being done to combat Lyme disease? 


Speakers included:

Prof Sally Cutler, Professor of Medical Microbiology, University of East London

Dr Tim Brooks, Clinical Services Director, PHE Rare & Imported Pathogens laboratory (RIPL)

Dr Chin Lim, Consultant Microbiologist and clinical lead for Scottish Microbiology Reference Laboratory, Inverness, NHS Highland.

Dr Matthew Dryden, Consultant Microbiologist, Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Dr Sarah Logan, Lead Consultant, Hospital for Tropical Disease, UCLH

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