2021 Lyme disease research round-up

Posted: 22nd December 2021

During the past year, scientists have made incredible leaps in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease. We’ve seen a realistic vaccine candidate emerge and several new and exciting treatments with exciting potential, including a 70-year-old antibiotic. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen in stark terms the impact Lyme disease can have on physical and mental health.
 
At Biocentaur, we’re pioneering genetic testing for Lyme disease. You can learn more about our range of Lyme disease tests, including how you can book, here.
 
Here are five Lyme disease developments that caught the eye of the Biocentaur team during 2021.
 
Lyme disease vaccine completes Stage 2 trials

In September 2021, Pfizer and Valneva announced that their Lyme disease vaccine candidate VLA15 had completed Phase 2 trials. Currently the only Lyme disease vaccine in development, VLA15 targets six of the most common Borrelia serotypes in the USA and Europe. 
 
Pfizer and Valneva have so far completed two trials involving 800 patients. Reviewing the evidence, researchers “observed high levels of antibodies against all six serotypes” after patients received the vaccine. The successful trial marks a further step towards a large-scale Phase 3 clinical trial, which, if successful, is the last step before entering clinical usage.
 
Read more about the VLA15 vaccine here.
 
70-year-old antibiotic effective at treating Lyme disease
 
In November, scientists described how a 70-year-old antibiotic hygromycin A could treat Lyme disease and even eradicate it from the surrounding environment. In a paper published in the journal Cell, a team from Northeastern University in Boston and the University of Oklahoma describe how the antibiotic is better at treating Lyme disease, with fewer side effects than current antibiotics. 
 
The authors caution that the trial was small and performed in animal models, but it’s a new life for this previously forgotten antibiotic.
 
You can read the full story here.
 
Quarter of Lyme disease patients experience long-term symptoms

In July, a new paper published in The Lancet Regional Health Europe described how one in four Lyme disease patients will experience long-term symptoms, even after treatment with antibiotics. The findings suggest that Lyme disease can become a chronic and life-limiting condition for potentially millions of people if left undiagnosed. “These findings suggest that Lyme borreliosis may induce persistent symptoms, albeit in a small proportion of patients,” say the authors.

Read our full story here.

Worried about Lyme disease? Check out the Johns Hopkins Lyme and Tickborne Disease Dashboard

Lyme disease is a growing threat, with public awareness growing all the time. A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has created a free Lyme disease dashboard, providing real-time information on the number of tick-borne disease cases in their area. Since being launched in May 2021, the map uses colour coding to highlight infection levels. As well as information for the public, over time, the dashboard will provide helpful information for researchers on the distribution and numbers of infections that could support their work.

Check out the Johns Hopkins Lyme disease dashboard here.

Lyme disease increases risk of mental health disorders and suicide

Scientists have established that people living with Lyme disease have a 28% greater likelihood of experiencing mental health disorders. They’re also twice as likely to attempt to commit suicide, researchers from Columbia University and the Copenhagen Research Centre for Mental Health found when examining the evidence. The first study of its type ever completed, the team found evidence that Lyme disease increases an individual’s risk of severe cardiac, rheumatologic, and neurologic problems in addition to mental health impacts. “It is time to move beyond thinking of Lyme disease as a simple illness that only causes a rash,” said Brian Fallon, a psychiatrist and lead author of the report.
 
You can read the full paper, Lyme Borreliosis and Associations With Mental Disorders and Suicidal Behavior: A Nationwide Danish Cohort Study, here.

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