Lyme disease is a growing issue in the United States. Since the 1990’s, the number of cases has more than doubled. Scientists at a laboratory associated with the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Medical School are working on an answer, and have made progress on a shot that could offer 100% protection against the disease.
Lyme disease, which is contracted after infected ticks transmit a bacterium to humans, is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is “the most commonly reported vectorborne illness in the United States.” 14 states, most on the East Coast of the country, have reported 95 percent of confirmed cases. Every year 30,000 cases are reported to the CDC, and that number is only increasing.
The shot – which Western Mass News makes clear is not a vaccine – could be groundbreaking. Professor Mark Klempner said the scientists have isolated one antibody that could prevent Lyme disease from being transmitted to humans. The antibody could kill the bacteria in the tick’s gut when it bites so a person won’t get the disease. One injection could last from the spring through the fall.
So far, the team has tested the antibody in mice. Klempner told Western Mass News, “We take ticks that carry the bacteria – many of them – six or seven, put them on a small rodent, and then give that mouse a little bit of that antibody. It’s been 100 percent effective in preventing many ticks from transmitting.”
The method has been entirely effective in preventing mice from contracting the disease. Klempner said the discovery of the antibody came during research in which he was involved for a vaccine, now discontinued. With the new research, the team thus far has not seen any unfavorable side effects, but needs to do more testing. Undergoing Food and Drug Administration trials could take around two to three years.