Vaccine against Lyme disease shows promise

Researchers found promising results from a Lyme disease vaccine in Phase I and Phase II trials conducted in Europe, according to a recent study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The vaccine, which was co-developed by researchers at Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Laboratory and U.S.-based healthcare company Baxter International, Inc., produced substantial antibodies against all targeted Borrelia species, the causative agent of Lyme disease in the U.S. and Europe.

The study tested the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine in a range of doses in 300 people living in Germany and Austria. The vaccine was well-tolerated and induced substantial antibody titers against all Borrelia species.

"The results of the clinical trial conducted by Baxter are promising because the vaccine generated a potent human immune reaction, covered the complete range of Borrelia active in the entire Northern hemisphere, and produced no major side effects," Benjamin Luft, a co-author on the paper, said. "We hope that a larger-scale, Phase III trial will demonstrate not only a strong immune response but true efficacy in a large population that illustrates protection against Lyme disease."

Luft said that one of the main challenges for developing a Lyme disease vaccine was determining a method to produce a vaccine effective on all Borrelia species. Luft and his colleagues focused development on the most abundant Borrelia outer surface protein, called OspA. The researchers bioengineered a set of unique OspA proteins that share different parts from different species of Borrelia to develop a vaccine for broad-based coverage.

"After a series of experimentations and refinements, formulations consisting of these new OspA proteins were shown to protect against a broad spectrum of Lyme disease spirochetes," Luft said.

Baxter International conducted the vaccine clinical trial.