Humans contract Lyme disease from the bite of a blacklegged tick, which carries the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. Photo Credit: James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control

Health USA24. November 2021

A Vaccine Against Lyme Disease Is in the Works

A team of scientists affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania in the United States has developed the very first mRNA vaccine against Lyme disease, and tests are proving to show promise.

“All human vaccines directly target pathogens. This would be the first vaccine that does not target the pathogen,” says co-author Erol Fikrig, an epidemiologist at Yale. “Rather by targeting the tick, you prevent the transmission of a pathogen. In this case the Lyme disease agent.”

Lyme disease being the most common vector-borne disease in the United States – the number of cases have doubled since 1991, and are still growing according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – the development of a vaccine is most welcome. The mRNA vaccine targets 19 different proteins found in the tick’s saliva which carries the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. By training the immune system to react to the saliva instead of to the bacteria, the tick spends less time feeding on a host. Two groups of guinea pigs were used in the trial: one vaccinated, and the other unvaccinated. The vaccinated animals developed a rash and inflammation quicker, giving an indication of where to retrieve the tick prior to it infects the body. The next trials will be on rabbits, and if the results are as promising as with guinea pigs, human trials will start.

Smithsonian Magazine

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