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First vaccine in 20 years targeting Lyme disease starts human trials

A vaccine candidate for Lyme disease is moving through the clinical pipeline, as the tick-borne disease spreads to new areas. Here, a tick is seen at the French National Institute of Agricultural Research.
Bertrand Guay
/
AFP via Getty Images
A vaccine candidate for Lyme disease is moving through the clinical pipeline, as the tick-borne disease spreads to new areas. Here, a tick is seen at the French National Institute of Agricultural Research.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has started clinical trials of a new vaccine that they hope will protect people against Lyme disease caused by tick bites.

The phase-three trials are being conducted in states known for high rates of Lyme disease, like Connecticut and New York, as well as countries in Europe.

Dr. Peta-Gay Jackson Booth, a principal investigator with Care Access, which is running the Pfizer clinical trial, said it's a four injection process.

“The primary series is three shots where there’s a one-to-one chance of receiving either the study drug or a placebo,” Jackson Booth said. “That occurs starting now through the end of this year with the third dose occurring in the spring of next year. And there’s a booster one year later.”

The study will involve around 6,000 people worldwide, with participants as young as 5 years old.

“We will track all our participants through two Lyme disease seasons, starting next year for any tick bites or potential infections and see how they do,” Jackson Booth said.

Jackson Booth said they are looking for volunteers to be part of the study.

“If you’re already at risk, whether it’s a family that likes to hike or kids who are playing sports or working in forested areas,” she said. “Whatever your exposure is, you have the opportunity to be active in the fight against Lyme disease by participating in this study.”

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If the vaccine is successful and gets FDA approval, it could become available as early as 2025. It would be the first vaccine against Lyme disease for human use in over 20 years, since LymeRix, which was developed in the 1990s but removed from the market.

Lyme disease affects around 500,00 people in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It costs healthcare systems across the country over a $1 billion per year to treat people with the disease, which can be life threatening if medical assistance isn't sought.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.