photo: Carolina Kabat via Flickr
Ticks aren’t just icky; they’re also dangerous carriers of Lyme disease (among other infections) — and up until now, our only real protection against them is prevention through diligent use of bug sprays and thorough body checks after visiting tick-prone areas. But scientists at UMass Medical School are currently working on a new treatment that may offer 100 percent protection against the disease.
According to Western Mass News, the school’s research team is “on the brink” of a finalizing work on an injection proven to offer complete protection against the disease when tested in mice. The treatment is not a vaccine; rather, it is a seasonal shot called a “Lyme pre-exposer prophy-laxis” or “Lyme prep” that could be given to people in the spring to last through the fall, when ticks are most prevalent.
Dr. Mark Klempner of UMass Medical School told the news agency that researchers have isolated a single human antibody that kills the bacteria inside a tick’s gut before Lyme can be transmitted during a tick bite, the news agency reported.
“In this case, what we’ve done is we’ve honed in on exactly the anti-body that will prevent you from getting Lyme disease transmitted to you,” Klempner said. “We take ticks that carry the bacteria—many of them—six or seven, put them on a small rodent, and then give that mouse a little bit of that anti-body. It’s been 100% percent effective in preventing many ticks from transmitting.”
So far, there are reportedly no side effects to the shot, but more research needs to be done. The next step for the treatment will include FDA trials, which could take two to three years.
Each year, approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to CDC. If left untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.
For more about Lyme disease, including how to remove ticks, see the Lyme Disease page on the CDC’s website.
Do you worry about Lyme disease? What do you think of this shot? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.