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Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that’s becoming more of a concern as climate change affects insect populations. And so, with that, because ticks could become more of a year-long nuisance, there’s a threat of Lyme numbers rising.
Lyme disease is a bit of a medical mystery, affecting different people in different ways. Lyme disease bacteria can cause fever, rashes, chills, headaches, fatigue or muscle and joint aches in humans. If it's not treated, though, the disease can end up causing a whole lot worse, like facial palsy and arthritis. But, all in all, It's usually treatable, depending on the person.
So, why don't we have a vaccine yet?
About 20 years ago, there actually was a Lyme disease vaccine for humans, but it wasn't successful. LYMErix was a vaccine approved by the FDA in the US in 1998, proven safe and about 75% effective in reducing the risk for infection in clinical trials. But, it was taken off the market in 2002 because of low consumer demand at the time, paired with reports of potential side effects like arthritis, which was enough to turn a lot of people against the vaccine.
"The FDA found insufficient evidence to support a causal relationship between the reported adverse effects and the vaccine and continued to permit use of the vaccine," researchers wrote in Epidemiology & Infection in 2007. "However, the public's perception of potential risks, heavily influenced by the negative press coverage and limited awareness of the benefits of the vaccine, decreased consumer demand for the vaccine."
Luckily, now, we could be looking at a new vaccine against the disease.
Earlier in April, Moderna announced two different mRNA Lyme disease vaccines in the works. And Pfizer and its partner, Valneva, have also been on track to get a Lyme disease vaccination out soon. There were a few setbacks here and there with the clinical trials, but we could be seeing FDA vaccination authorization as early as 2025.
"We are extremely pleased to reach this important milestone in the development of VLA15," Valneva's chief medical officer, Juan Carlos Jaramillo, said in a statement last year. "Lyme disease continues to spread, representing a high unmet medical need that impacts the lives of many in the Northern Hemisphere."