Lyme disease is a relentless condition caused by the Borrelia bacteria. The tick-borne illness is contracted when an infected tick bites a host to feed on their blood and transfers the bacteria via the bloodstream. When the bacteria enters the body, it travels to all areas and can cause widespread illness.
Lyme disease was first diagnosed in patients in the 70s, but it wasn’t fully confirmed as being caused by Borrelia until 1981. Since then, the only treatment found to be remotely effective against the bacteria is antibiotics, and even that isn’t effective in all cases.
A vaccine for Lyme disease was created in the late 90s and was found to be efficient at preventing and protecting against Lyme disease, but never got off the ground. The vaccine itself was successful, but low sales due to lack of demand caused the manufacturer to close up shop. Since then, no new Lyme disease vaccine has been licensed for use.
Is there a vaccine for Lyme disease?
Lyme disease has become a rampant problem in North America. In the United States alone, roughly 300,000 positive cases of Lyme disease will be documented every year. Considering no vaccine has been created, that’s a lot of potential patients who might suffer from the chronic effects of Lyme disease.
There is some good news surrounding a promising new vaccine, though. The vaccine in question was developed by a French company called Valneva. In collaboration with Pfizer, the biotech company began development of VLA15, the latest Lyme disease vaccine. Although it is still in clinical trials, the first phase of results from the vaccine have shown tremendous promise in stopping six serotypes of Borrelia bacteria in their tracks.
What does the science say?
The VLA15 vaccine is in just beginning to bring back positive results, and a recent study on the efficacy of the vaccine against Lyme disease has given people a lot to talk about when it comes to the prevention of further Lyme disease infection.
In a press release from Valneva, the Chief Medical Officer, Wolfgang Bender, said, “We are pleased to continue to progress our Lyme vaccine candidate development according to plan and as expeditiously as possible.” He also commented: “With higher dosage levels and the potential alternative vaccination schedule, our ultimate goal is to further optimize our vaccine candidate by targeting a high efficacy from the first Lyme season.”
Phase 2 trials are in progress right now, and over 800 people have been enrolled for testing. The candidates from the previous trial have also been part of a follow-up to determine whether or not the dosage and vaccine itself was effective at preventing the Borrelia bacteria from wreaking havoc on the body. The next phase of trials is set to begin in 2021, and the company is hopeful that the vaccine will be ready for public use within five years.
Is a vaccine the answer to Lyme disease?
Bearing in mind how widespread Lyme disease is, and the difficult health complications that can arise following infection and treatment, the next best step in combating the bacterial infection is via vaccine. Vaccines are useful in the prevention of diseases and infections, and since treatment has been at a stalemate since Lyme disease first appeared, it seems like it’s the next best course of action.
The reliability and efficiency of the vaccine is not yet fully known, but according to the trials, it is as close as the world has come to a Lyme disease vaccine in over 20 years. VLA15 works by targeting a surface protein of the Borrelia bacteria. When this occurs, it has been effective at triggering an immune response in the body that shows promise in combating the bacteria. Since the vaccine is only in the trials phase, its long-term effects are not yet known. It has, however, been shown to be safe for those who participated in the trials, and for more than 75% of participants, it has been effective.
How long is Lyme vaccine good for?
Since the trials are only in Phase 2, long-term efficacy is still not entirely known. Some preliminary results from Phase 1 have indicated that the vaccine has the ability to continue protection from 12–15 months following the first vaccination.
The people who will most benefit from the vaccine are those above two years old who live in or frequently travel to high-risk areas.
Lyme disease is serious and potentially extremely detrimental to the health of anyone who contracts it. The symptoms of Lyme disease vary widely and are entirely dependent on many factors. The course of treatment taken, how early on in the infection treatment occurs, and the health levels and immune function of the infected person will all play key roles in how the disease takes hold.
Diagnosis of Lyme disease can also be tricky because of its ability to mimic other chronic illnesses such as:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Depression and other mental illnesses
A vaccine in development shows tremendous promise when it comes to treating and preventing the continued growth of Lyme disease numbers in North America and abroad. The creation of VLA15 could change the face of treatment when it comes to Lyme disease, and could help those especially at risk get the protection they need from a potential infection.