Ticks can transmit the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and cause Lyme disease. To date, adequate tick protection when spending time outdoors has been considered the only way to prevent Lyme disease, but a newly developed vaccine could change this.
In a current study involving experts from the Yale University School of Medicine, the effect of a new vaccine against the pathogen that causes Lyme disease was tested. The results are published in the specialist journal “Molecular Therapy”.
Problems with antibiotic treatment
Infections with Borrelia are relatively common and, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), around three percent of three to six year old children and seven percent of 14 to 17 year old adolescents in Central Europe are bitten at least once by a tick infected with Borrelia.
Most cases of Lyme disease can be successfully treated with antibiotic treatment lasting several weeks, but sometimes the treatment does not have the desired effect and those affected develop a so-called post-Lyme disease syndrome, which can cause symptoms such as severe joint pain and neurocognitive problems .
How do you protect yourself from infection?
Until now, the only way to prevent Lyme disease was to use appropriate tick protection when spending time in nature. According to the RKI, care should be taken to wear closed clothing in tall grass, bushes or undergrowth.
You can also tuck your trouser legs into your socks and apply so-called repellents (acaricides) to clothing and skin, although their protective effect remains limited in time. After spending time outdoors, the body should be searched for ticks and any finds should be removed immediately, reports the RKI.
Preventing Lyme disease with a new vaccine
An effective vaccine could significantly improve the options for prevention, especially for people who, for example, spend a lot of time outdoors for work. The new experimental mRNA vaccine now being tested appears to fulfill this purpose.
“Bacteria are more complex organisms than viruses and therefore it may be more difficult to develop effective vaccines against them. Here we were able to identify a target for an mRNA vaccine that shows promising results in preventing B. burgdorferi infections in animal models,” emphasizes study author Dr. Norbert Pardi in a press release.
Single vaccination provides effective protection against infection
The new mRNA vaccine has already proven to be extremely effective in animal models. Even a single vaccination resulted in a strong antigen-specific antibody and T cell response that can protect against infection with B. burgdorferi, the team said.
In addition, the new vaccine also triggered a strong reaction from B memory cells. This can also be activated for a long time after vaccination, which prevents infection with B. Burgdorferi.
“MRNA technology holds great promise for developing a vaccine that can prevent Lyme disease and the subsequent development of the debilitating symptoms of post-Lyme disease syndrome,” adds study author Dr. Pardi added. (as)