The recognition by the CDC of an increasing number of Lyme disease cases each year had led to renewed calls for a Lyme disease vaccine. Some are asking for the re-issue of the old LYMErix vaccine, which was approved by the CDC, and others are pushing for development of a new form of inoculation against Lyme disease. Writing in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases this year, the researcher S.A. Plotkin stated that “[the] fact that there is no vaccine for an infection causing ∼20,000 annual cases is an egregious failure of public health.”
Why No New Lyme Vaccine has Emerged
There are a number of reasons for the slow development of a Lyme disease vaccine, including a reluctance by pharmaceutical companies to get burned in a similar way to LYMErix manufacturers, GSK back in 2002. Others argue that it is simply more profitable for drug manufacturers to ‘treat’ the symptoms of Lyme palliatively, giving anti-inflammatory medications, pain relievers, and other medications where antibiotics fail to address a patient’s ailments. The continued availability of a Lyme disease vaccine for dogs has made many people question the motives of drug companies, and the psychological component of many symptoms often blamed on Lyme disease.
Earlier this year, Gary Wormser, a veteran of Lyme disease research and chief of the infectious diseases department at New York Medical College, called for pharmaceutical companies to step up to the challenge of creating a Lyme disease vaccine. Writing in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, Wormser said “A number of us wrote a letter to several pharmaceutical companies saying this is needed”, and there are rumors that Baxter, a pharmaceutical company, is workin on a new Lyme disease vaccine. Clinical trials for such a vaccine would be time-consuming however, and may struggle to find patients willing to take part given the conspiracy theories and Lyme disease quackery so entrenched in the minds of many potential patients.
Other vaccine developers are researching the possibility of orally immunizing mice against the Borrelia bacteria in order to reduce the major zoonosis reservoir for Lyme disease. There is even speculation that scientists are looking at the potential to make human blood unpalatable to ticks to minimize the longevity of their bite and thereby reduce the risk of infection. The lessons learnt from LYMErix will no doubt have been taken on board by those companies looking at introducing a new Lyme disease vaccine, and with cases growing year on year there is certainly a major market for them to exploit.
Continue Reading –> Lyme Vaccine in Europe
Plotkin, S.A., Correcting a public health fiasco: The need for a new vaccine against Lyme disease. Clin Infect Dis. 2011 Feb;52 Suppl 3:s271-5.