Ticking a Lyme Disease Vaccine Off The List

Lyme disease vaccine seems effective and safe in early trial

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Finding a tick can be a nerve-racking experience, as concerns about Lyme disease are well known, especially to those living in rural areas. But what if people could know they are protected and simply shrug these encounters off?

Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, is transmitted through tick bites and can lead to headaches, rashes and fever, and without treatment can affect the nervous system, heart and joints.

Researchers are working on a new vaccine for Lyme disease that has the potential to help put people’s minds at ease.

Initial tests found that the vaccine produced significant antibodies to fight Lyme disease without significant adverse effects.

"Walk on cleared trails to avoid tick bites."

Led by Nina Wressnigg, PhD, of Baxter BioScience, the healthcare company creating the vaccine, the researchers tested a vaccine aimed to be effective against all species of Borrelia, the type of bacteria that causes Lyme disease infections.

The vaccine design centered on the creation of an Outer Surface Protein A (OspA) not found in nature, but that would cause the body to create antibodies for various types of Borrelia bacteria.

To test the vaccine, the researchers looked at 300 patients between the ages of 18 and 70 with no recent history of Lyme disease.

The participants, who were examined at four sites in Austria and Germany, were divided into six different groups, which received vaccines with different dose levels of the OspA antigen. 

Half of the vaccines were adjuvanted, meaning a substance was included in the vaccine with the purpose of increasing the immune response and potentially requiring smaller levels of either the inactivated virus or bacterial components in the vaccine. 

Participants were given three immunizations 28 days apart and a booster dose nine to 12 months later. Their blood was tested at various points throughout the study and participants were also monitored for adverse reactions to the vaccines.

Upon completion of the study, the authors found that the participants responded well to all forms of the vaccine. Most reactions observed were considered mild (e.g., fatigue or tenderness at injection site), and no serious health events seen during the course of the study were determined to have been related to the vaccines.

The authors did find that the risk of reactions was lower for the adjuvanted vaccines and that the lower (OspA) dose was received with fewer symptoms.

According to the authors, all of the vaccine formulations created a “substantial” antibody response in the bodies of participants.

Chris Galloway, MD, medical editor and retired emergency department physician said "Lyme disease can cause an acute infectious illness that can often be effectively treated if caught early.  Untreated Lyme disease can lead to many chronic conditions that can be debilitating and difficult to treat.  Prevention is the key!  A safe and effective vaccine will be well received when available, but until then be extra vigilant in preventative measures."

In the blood tests, concentrations of the antibodies to fight Borrelia were found to be high, leading the researchers to believe that participants’ bodies would be able to fight off a Lyme disease infection.

The authors noted that larger studies need to be done to confirm these findings and solidify proper levels of the OspA antigen needed.

The study was published online by The Lancet Infectious Disease. Several of the researchers were employees of Baxter BioScience, which funded and designed the study and owns the rights to the vaccine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 15, 2013
Last Updated:
August 13, 2013