Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fighting Lyme Disease by Vaccinating Mice

Twelve years ago there was a promising vaccine for Lyme disease, but GlaxoSmithKline withdrew it, primarily because it had too many dangerous side effects. Too many dangerous side effects to use in humans, that is; but what about using it in some other animal? People mostly get Lyme disease from tick nymphs that pick up the bacteria by biting mice, especially white-footed mice. So biologist Maria Gomes-Solecki set about developing a Lyme vaccine for mice. Of course you can't vaccinate millions of mice by giving them all shots, so it had to be an oral vaccine.
Gomes-Solecki spent the next decade developing her vaccine. By 2006 she had formulated oatmeal pellets laced with OspA. Those pellets reduced the number of infected ticks lab studies, and research published earlier this year shows they can also be effective in the field. Gomes-Solecki and her colleagues selected seven football-field-sized plots in Dutchess County, New York and planted them with live traps. Traps on four of the plots were laced with OspA vaccine. The other three plots contained only placebo pellets. By the second year, the vaccine had slashed number of infected ticks by 23%. By the fifth year, the researchers saw a 76% reduction. White-footed mice live about a year, and ticks live about two. So with each passing year, “you keep on taking more and more bacteria out of the ticks,” Gomes-Solecki says.
Interesting. I can see this being used in places where lots of people go into the woods and encounter ticks, like busy woodland parks. Maybe I could talk the Marines into using it at Quantico, since half my crew gets Lyme every time we have a project there.

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