Magazine article Science News

Bio-Tick-Nology Yields Lyme Disease Vaccine

Magazine article Science News

Bio-Tick-Nology Yields Lyme Disease Vaccine

Article excerpt

Bio-tick-nology yields Lyme disease vaccine

An experimental vaccine made from bacterial proteins has completely protected mice against Lyme disease, raising hopes that people may someday benefit from a similar vaccine. But researchers say the road to human trials remains as twisted as the corkscrew-shaped bacterium that causes the syndrome.

The incidence of Lyme disease, which can bring serious nerve, joint and heart problems, has skyrocketed in the United States and Europe in recent years. But the causative bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, has a knack for deceiving the body's defenses. That trait -- coupled with the lack of a good animal model in which to test candidate vaccines -- has impeded the search for a shot that could help the immune system repel the tick-borne troublemaker.

Recently, Erol Fikrig and his co-workers at the Yale University School of Medicine developed a strain of mice that, when infected with B. burgdorferi, show many of the arthritic and cardiac symptoms seen in humans with Lyme disease. Now they've used those mice to test a new vaccine.

With recombinant DNA methods, Fikrig's team mass-produced a protein called OspA, which normally sprouts from the surface of B. burgdorferi. They vaccinated their mice with doses of the protein, then challenged each mouse with one of three different strains of B. burgdorferi. Vaccinated mice fought off the infection and showed no evidence of joint inflammation or heart disease at autopsy, the researchers report in the Oct. …

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