About Lyme Disease in Canada

Kids lying in field

Lyme disease is a complex multi-system inflammatory illness caused by the bite of a tick infected with one of several closely related species of Borrelia bacteria. It's by far the most common tick-borne illness in Canada, but it's by no means the only one.

Even so, Lyme disease is relatively new to Canada. The first breeding colony of infected blacklegged ticks was found at Long Point, Ontario on the north shore of Lake Erie back in the early 1990s. Since that time, many more of these breeding colonies have been found throughout southern Canada with hotspots having been identified in the southern regions of Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. Every year, more and more Lyme-endemic regions are added to the map and locally acquired cases of Lyme disease have now been reported in every province.

All projections suggest that Lyme disease will spread rapidly over the coming decades. There are many factors driving this expansion, including climate change, forest fragmentation, declining biodiversity and migrating birds, which carry up to 175 million blacklegged ticks into Canada each spring from two distinct populations in the United States: the Northeast (whose ticks wind up in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes) and the Midwest (whose ticks wind up in the Prairie provinces). A third population of Lyme-infected ticks, Western blacklegged ticks, is found on the west coast, most notably in California. These ticks are slowly making their way northward into British Columbia.

I first began researching ticks and tick-borne illnesses when I was diagnosed with Lyme disease and relapsing tick fever in 2007. Back then, Canada-centric, peer-reviewed journal articles on ticks and the illnesses they carry were few in number. Much of what Canadians were being told about Lyme disease was borrowed from research done in the United States and it was unclear how or if that research applied to the situation in Canada. To make things more challenging, the limited research that was being done here didn't appear to be finding its way to doctor's offices, public health units, or the general public, something that resulted in a disturbing disconnect between researchers and just about everyone else.

Thankfully, things are changing. In the past decade, an increasing number of researchers in every province and representing an impressive array of disciplines are applying their expertise to ticks and tick-borne illnesses. As a result, we are collectively learning an ever increasing amount about the unique situation we face here in Canada even if we're still a long way from being able to make definitive statements about a great many aspects of these diseases.

This website's goal is to catalogue all of the Canadian research on ticks, Lyme disease and related tick-borne illnesses so that anyone who wants to educate themselves can find the information they're looking for in one convenient place. Assuming, of course, that the information they're looking for correlates to a topic that's currently being researched. Once you familiarize yourself with the papers indexed on this site you'll discover there are a great many aspects of tick-borne illnesses that are currently either under-researched or not being researched at all in this country, proving that although we have come far, there is still a long way yet to go.