Lyme disease vaccine may be three years away
A Lyme disease vaccine is probably three-to-five years away, despite a canine version being on the market for years.
There are two vaccines currently in development, though development was stalled after scientists came close but failed, as medical news site Stat reported.
LYMErix was taken off shelves in 2002, thanks to lawsuits over potential side effects. The result was a reluctance to try again, according to Sam Telford, a professor of vector-borne infections at Tufts University.
“Companies said, ‘Look, we just don’t want to go there,’ Telford told Stat. “There was a lot of negativity around making a new Lyme disease vaccine.”
There were a total of 1,266 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Connecticut last year, according to the state Department of Public Health. That’s not too far off from where it was a few decades ago — the first available year of data is 1991, when there were 1,192 cases of Lyme disease.
The worst year for Lyme was 2002, when there were more than 4,500 confirmed cases. It dipped the following year but jumped back up in 2008, though Lyme has been on a steady decline since then.
In 2018, June and July were the worst months for Lyme, by far, with 221 and 202 cases statewide. Cases dropped down into the double-digits by fall.
As Stat explained, “When an infected tick bites someone and begins to feed on their blood, Lyme-causing bacteria can slowly travel from the tick’s gut to its salivary glands and then transfer from biter to bitee.”
But if antibodies against the bacteria are introduced to the victim’s bloodstream, the disease can be killed inside the tick, before it ever makes it to the human.
Both of the two treatments currently being tested work in that way but one, a vaccine called VLA15 — being developed by French biotech company Valneva — may be available for children as young as five years old.
Valneva said VLA15 might be available in as few as five years.
A second approach — called Lyme pre-exposure prophylaxis — developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, would make a patient invulnerable to Lyme after a single injection.
Clinical trials are expected to start next year and a product could be on the shelves by 2022.