by Mila McManus, MD
According to the Associated Press, researchers are looking for volunteers, age 5 and above, in the United States and Europe to test a potential Lyme vaccine made by Pfizer and French Biotech Valneva. It aims to target six Lyme strains by attacking an “outer surface protein” of the Lyme bacterium called OspA that is present in the tick’s gut. It is estimated that a tick feeds on a person for about 36 hours before the bacteria from the tick spreads to the victim. (this time delay is controversial, though, as many believe that microbes from ticks can be transmitted much earlier) That delay gives time for antibodies the tick ingests from the vaccinated person’s blood to attack the germs right at the source. According to Dr. Gary Wormser, a Lyme expert at New York Medical College who is not involved in the new research, most vaccines work after a person is exposed to the germ. This new Lyme vaccine, however, works a step earlier by preventing the transmission of infection in the first place.
This is not the first vaccine for Lyme. In 2002, the first Lyme vaccine for humans was pulled off the market for lack of demand. Made by GlaxoSmithKline, it was controversial with about a 75% effectiveness rating and unsubstantiated reports of joint-related side effects. It had also not been tested for safety with children. Since then, people have had to rely on toxic bug spray and careful physical examination.
Lyme disease, the tick-born illness, is a rapidly growing problem as cases rise and warm weather helps ticks to expand their territory. Black-legged ticks, also called deer ticks, carry Lyme-causing bacteria and are present in Texas. The infection initially causes fatigue, fever, and joint pain. Sometimes, but not always, the first sign is a red, round bull’s eye rash. Early antibiotic treatment is crucial, but it can be hard to tell if you have been bitten by a tick because the sneakiest ticks are in the nymph stage of growth and are the size of a pin head. Untreated Lyme can cause severe arthritis, damaged heart and nervous system. Symptoms can linger even after treatment. Moreover, ticks carry numerous disease-causing microbes, not just Borrelia bacteria that cause Lyme disease.
Lyme disease, both acute and chronic, is more rampant than ever, and the incidence has been grossly under-estimated by the CDC. Obviously if Big Pharma is interested in a vaccine, the disease is a big enough problem to warrant solutions. We will be watching to see how this story evolves and if a vaccine gets FDA-approved.
We have a number of therapies and approaches to strengthen the immune system and support the body’s natural immune defenses to manage and reduce the symptoms caused by Lyme disease.
For more information regarding symptoms, testing, and treatment, contact one of our Wellness Consultants by calling 281-298-6742.