Yale Researchers Working to Develop Lyme Disease Vaccine

NBC Universal, Inc.

Connecticut is no stranger to Lyme disease. It was first discovered in humans back in the 1970s in the town of Lyme.

And now some Connecticut-based researchers are trying to give us more protection against the disease.

A team at yale says its early trials for a Lyme disease vaccine have been successful.

Deer ticks spread Lyme disease, which can cause serious infections. And while deaths are rare, cases in humans are not.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2019 there were 795 confirmed cases in Connecticut.

Right now, the vaccine has only been tested on guinea pigs. It works by creating a creation in the body that's similar to the reaction you might have from another common pest.

"The purpose is to make a tick bite more or less like a mosquito bite. So when a mosquito bites you, you recognize it and you swat it, when a tick bites you, you really don't recognize it, you sort of might feel a lump. You look at it, you're sort of disgusted, and you pull it off. So imagine if you could recognize a tick bite early, what would you do, you'd remove it early. And if you can remove it early, you likely won't get Lyme disease," explained Erol Fikrig, one of the researchers working on the project."

If you've ever found a tick on a dog, your kids or yourself, you know how small they are. An adult female deer tick can get up to four millimeters, which is barely over an eighth of an inch.

That's why this vaccine could be so beneficial, because so many people don't even realize they have ticks on them.

And once the tick latches on, they take about three to five days to feed.

And the Lyme disease bacteria takes about 24 to 48 hours to transmit, so timing is crucial.

"If you pull the ticks off the guinea pigs at the first sight of redness, it's very effective in preventing Lyme disease over 90%. If you let the tick feed for a longer period of time the efficacy goes down. But my opinion is that if you recognize a tick bite, you're not gonna let it stay on you. You're gonna pull it off as soon as you can," Fikrig said.

This Lyme vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, a term that's become common in conversation. The Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are also mRNA vaccines. It's a type that triggers an immune response in our bodies.

"We actually began working on the mRNA approach before the Covid epidemic pandemic occurred. But I will say that the fact that the mRNA vaccines for Covid were rapidly approved, and turned out to be both successful and safe, made us think that the mRNA approach was really the right way to go for this," Fikrig said.

There's still a long way to go before you can sign up to get this Lyme vaccine. The researchers want to test in rabbits and other small animals too, then human trials are needed.

They also want to test other kinds of ticks, and potentially other kinds of diseases. But researchers are hopeful that because of the quick FDA approval of the Covid-19 vaccines, it could speed up the approval process of other vaccines.

Contact Us