Scientists Have Developed A Shot That Could Offer Complete Protection Against Lyme Disease

This is big news. Here's what you need to know.

August 9, 2017
lyme shot
Jeffrey Hamilton/ Getty

Lyme is one scary disease—especially since it’s possible for it to go undiagnosed or insufficiently treated for a long time due to inadequate lab tests. It’s even more troubling when you consider the fact that your risk is steadily increasing as global temperatures rise and tick populations boom. In fact, reports indicate that 2017 is going to be the worst year for the spread of Lyme disease yet.

But amidst all of the bad Lyme news of late, there’s a much-needed glimmer of hope. 

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Turns out, scientists have developed a shot that seems to offer complete protection against contracting Lyme disease—no, we’re not joking—and it could be available to the public in as few as 2 to 3 years, according to Western Mass News

This shot, called Lyme pre-exposer prophy-laxis (or Lyme PReP), is currently being tested by researchers at UMass Medical School in Boston. It’s not technically a vaccine, which causes the body’s immune system to make a bunch of antibodies, but rather, it’s an injection of a specific antibody that would defend your body against Lyme-causing bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) if you were bitten by an infected tick. 

Related: Exactly What You Should Do If You Think You Have Lyme Disease—From Someone Who Has Had It

According to the article, “[researchers] have isolated that single human antibody, so that when a tick bites, it kills the bacteria inside the tick’s gut before Lyme can then be transmitted.”

On mice, researchers have had great success with Lyme PReP. For their testing, they place 6 to 7 infected ticks on a single mouse then give the mouse a dose of the antibody. To date, the shot has been 100% effective at preventing the spread of Lyme disease from the ticks to the mice. 

 

“If we're exposing a little tiny mouse to six ticks that are all carrying the bacteria, and it can be 100% effective there, we think that in a person, by giving a comparable amount of antibody, getting exposed to one tick—they’ll have a big margin of safety for protection,” Dr. Mark Klempner, researcher and professor at UMass Medical School told Western Mass News.

Related: 8 Mistakes You're Making That Increase Your Risk For Lyme Disease

On humans, one injection of Lyme PReP administered in the spring would likely last through fall, offering protection from Lyme disease for the entire tick season, according to researchers. This would make it extremely appealing for people who live in Lyme endemic areas or who are frequently exposed to Lyme-carrying ticks, like hunters or hikers. (Check out the 4 best tick removal tools for you and your pet.)

The downside, however, is that this shot would not protect from the host of other diseases that ticks carry, including powassan virus, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis. 

Human trials on the Lyme PReP shot could begin as early as next spring, according to CBS Boston, and—if all goes well—it could be available to the public in just a couple years. In the meantime, here are 5 ways to keep ticks out of your yard and avoid Lyme disease