The Lyme Disease Vaccine Breakthrough
A vaccine that scientists in the United States have developed provides protection against Lyme disease, an infection transmitted through the bite of a contaminated tick.
Research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania indicates that a single administration of the experimental injection elicits an immune response in mice, which has the potential to neutralize the pathogenic bacteria.
A Growing Concern in the UK
Lyme Disease Action, a charity, estimates that the true number of cases in the United Kingdom is closer to 15,000, rather than the estimated 3,000 annually, as many afflicted individuals do not seek medical attention for the flu-like symptoms and joint pains that Lyme disease can induce.
Ticks infected with Borrelia burgdorferi transmit the disease through their bites; they typically acquire the parasite when they feed on other animals, primarily rodents, which serve as vectors for the pathogen.
Since 2000, Lyme disease cases in the United Kingdom have increased nearly tenfold, primarily because mosquitoes have thrived in milder winters.
Typical manifestations of a Lyme disease bite include fatigue, joint and muscle discomfort, headaches, fever, and a stiff neck, which may appear within two to thirty days.
An initial sign is the development of a bull’s-eye-shaped dermatitis, which indicates the dissemination of bacteria from the tick near the bite.
Administering antibiotics promptly can prevent the spread of the bacteria. However, due to the tick’s minuscule size, many individuals are unaware they have been bitten. Neglecting treatment for the infection may result in medication-dependent nerve complications, such as paralysis in the extremities, chronic fatigue, memory impairment, impaired concentration, and irregular heart rhythms.
The Promise of mRNA Vaccines for Lyme Disease
Utilizing the same state-of-the-art technology that produced the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines, the new vaccine is a variant of mRNA vaccine!
MRNA vaccines reprogram the immune system to be on the alert for Lyme disease by instructing cells to produce a specific protein using genetic material extracted from the bacteria. Manufacturers produce them more rapidly and affordably than traditional vaccines, and they do not involve living viruses, unlike the majority of current injections.
The Lyme vaccine incorporates genetic material derived from outer surface protein A (OSpA), a protein present in the bacterium. When the immune system encounters this genetic material, it initiates the production of infection-fighting cells that can eradicate the disease should it resurface.
Significantly, the OspA protein is ubiquitously present in all strains of Borrelia burgdorferi, at least 18 strains, indicating that the vaccine should exhibit efficacy against every strain.
As reported in the August issue of Cell Press, blood samples obtained from rodents that received a single vaccination showed they retained significant levels of protection even six months later.
Presently, scientists aim to replicate these findings through clinical trials involving human volunteers.
Simultaneously, Moderna is seeking the participation of up to 800 volunteers in a clinical trial for its proprietary mRNA vaccine targeting Lyme disease, with initial findings anticipated in 2026.
Comparatively, Pfizer is also developing a Lyme disease vaccine that could be available within the next three years. This vaccine is manufactured using cells extracted from the hazardous bacteria, which is a more conventional approach.
Professor Hany Elsheikha, a veterinary parasitology expert at Nottingham University, commented on the recent findings: “While the results are encouraging, it is premature to extrapolate them to the development of a human vaccine at this time.”