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First major trial of Lyme vaccine in 20 years begins

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Duncansville, Pennsylvania — Researchers are seeking thousands of volunteers across the United States and Europe to test a potential vaccine against Lyme disease for the first time in 20 years, in hopes of better fighting the tick-borne threat.

Lyme disease is a growing problem, with rising cases and warming climates expanding tick habitats. Vaccines for dogs have been available for some time, but the only Lyme vaccine for humans, he withdrew from the U.S. market in 2002 due to lack of demand, and people turned to bug spray and tick checks. I had to rely on it.

Now Pfizer and French biotech Valneva aim to avoid previous pitfalls in developing a new vaccine that protects both adults and children as young as 5 from the most common Lyme strain on two continents. increase.

“I don’t think there was that kind of awareness about the severity of Lyme disease,” Pfizer’s vaccine chief Annalisa Anderson told the Associated Press.

Avid hunter and hiker Robert Terwilliger was first in line Friday when the survey began in central Pennsylvania. He is tired of seeing so many of his friends contract Lyme disease and thinking that the next time he is bitten by a tick, he will get sick.

“You always worry, don’t you? Especially when you’re sitting in a grove and hunting, you feel something crawling around you,” said Terwilliger, 60, of Williamsburg, Pennsylvania. “You must be very careful.”

The exact frequency of Lyme disease is unknown. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites insurance records that suggest 476,000 people in the United States receive treatment for Lyme disease each year. Pfizer’s Anderson puts the annual number of infections in Europe at about 130,000.

Black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, carry the bacteria that causes Lyme. Infections initially cause fatigue, fever, and joint pain. Often, but not always, the first sign is a red, rounded bullseye rash.

Early antibiotic treatment is important, but it can be difficult to tell if you have been bitten by a tiny needle-like tick. Unprocessed lime can cause severe arthritis and damage the heart and nervous system. Some people continue to have symptoms after treatment.

many vaccination It is effective against other diseases after people are exposed to the bacteria. Lyme vaccines offer another strategy — Gary Wurmser, Ph.D., a lime expert at New York Medical College who was not involved in the new study, says one way to block tick bites from transmitting infection. Work before the stage.

How? It targets an “outer surface protein” of Lyme bacteria called OspA present in the gut of ticks. It is estimated that the tick has to eat someone for about 36 hours before the bacterium spreads to the victim. You are given time to attack.

In a small early-stage study, Pfizer and Varneva reported good immune responses with no safety issues. To do. The companies aim to employ at least 6,000 people in the northeastern United States and Lyme-prone regions including Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden.

They will receive three doses of either vaccine or placebo between now and next spring tick season. After one year, they will receive one booster dose.

“We are looking at seasonal vaccines,” said Anderson. Therefore, people have higher antibody levels when ticks are most active.

Volunteers can be as young as five years old and should be at high risk because they spend a lot of time in tick-infested areas, including hikers, campers and hunters, said the Altoona Center research site. said Dr. Alan Kiewitz, who leads one. Clinical study in Duncansville, Pennsylvania.

In his own practice, “There isn’t a single day that someone is worried about, or possibly has, Lyme disease,” Kibbitz said.

This new candidate differs from the previous lime vaccine that GlaxoSmithKline controversially pulled from the market in 2002 amid sluggish sales. It has received lukewarm support from vaccine experts, garnered untested and unsubstantiated reports of joint-related side effects in children.

The new vaccine from Pfizer and Varneva also targets the OspA protein, but is designed somewhat differently than its predecessor, targeting not just one but six Lyme strains in the US and Europe.

The Pfizer study will span two tick seasons to get answers, but it’s not the only study on new ways to prevent Lyme. I’m working on an antibody shot that fights Lyme.

And Yale University researchers are in the early stages of designing a vaccine that recognizes tick saliva. This caused skin reactions in animal studies, making it difficult for the mites to stick and feed.

Ultimately, “we need vaccines to prevent tick bites,” Wormser said, because various tick species carry many diseases other than Lyme disease.

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The Associated Press’ Health Sciences Division is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education Division. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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