As healthcare workers and providers recognize May as National Lyme Disease Awareness Month, MassBiologics of UMass Chan Medical School announced promising results for a preventative Lyme disease shot.
Lyme PrEP, a pre-exposure prophylaxis, distributes a monoclonal antibody to provide immediate protection against infection. The Phase I trial was so successful that a second and third trial could begin next spring, according to Mark Klempner, MD, professor of medicine and former executive vice chancellor for Mass Biologics, per UMass Chan Medical School News.
Lyme PrEP is not a vaccine. Rather than kickstarting a patient’s immune system, Lyme PrEP delivers a single, human anti-Lyme antibody directly to the patient. The antibody kills Borrelia, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, in the tick’s gut before it can be transferred through a bite to a human.
Forty-eight volunteers are participating in the Phase I trial, and so far, no adverse reactions have been reported. Researchers also monitor how long the Lyme PrEP antibody remains in circulation to protect against infection. The Phase I trial ends in August.
Based on the CDC’s national disease tracking system, Lyme disease rates have almost doubled in the United States from 1991 to 2018. The CDC reported 34,945 confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease in 2019 but noted that actual numbers are probably much higher. Lyme disease can cause fever, fatigue, joint pain, skin rash, and more severe joint and nervous system complications. It’s the most common vector-borne disease (transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks, or fleas) in the United States. Patients are diagnosed using a two-step blood test. Positive results are treated with antibiotics for 10 to 28 days, depending on the stage of infection.
Klempner expects that Lyme PrEP could be licensed and available to the public as soon as 2024.